Saskatchewan Hospital water subject of Question Period

John Cairns' Leg Watch

Issues relevant to the Battlefords were front and centre at the legislature this week.

Unfortunately, it all had to do with the latest bad news from Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. The newly-opened hospital has been plagued by one construction-related issue after another, including insulation and then leaky roof issues.

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The latest problem, announced the week before, was word that the water had elevated copper and lead levels.

Opposition critic Vicki Mowat roasted Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff on Monday in Question Period on the topic. That exchange was recorded in Hansard.

Ms. Mowat: — Mr. Speaker, we’ve learned last week that in addition to needing its entire roof replaced, the water at Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford is undrinkable. We’re talking about a brand new hospital that’s already had all the exterior bricks and cladding removed, the entire roof needs to be replaced, and now we learned that patients and staff have been exposed to unsafe drinking water. When asked about lead in the water, an official told reporters it’s “not unusual for challenges like these to happen when constructing a brand new building.”

To the minister: it’s not unusual to have lead in the water at a brand new building? Is this a joke?

The Speaker:— I recognize the Minister of Central Services.

Hon. Mr. Cheveldayoff: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to ensure the residents of Saskatchewan that the government’s number one priority is ensuring the safety, well-being of patients, staff, and visitors.

Recent water testing at the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford has shown some signs of irregularities and inconsistency, and test results indicate that levels of certain minerals may be higher than desired levels. The local medical health officer has indicated that there is not an immediate health hazard. Out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Speaker, and with the health of patients, staff, and immediate steps in mind, immediate steps have been taken to ensure potable water is available on site at Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: —I recognize the member for Saskatoon Fairview.

Ms. Mowat: —Mr. Speaker, if this government thinks this is business as usual, they need to give their heads a shake. Suggesting that Saskatchewan people should be all right with this speaks of the lack of capable supervision of this government when it comes to public infrastructure.

The same official said, “This issue demonstrates the value of the P3 model.” Will the minister explain to patients and staff, who are still waiting to hear how much lead and copper they consumed, just how valuable this P3 [public-private partnership] process has been?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Minister for Central Services.

Hon. Mr. Cheveldayoff: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to assure the member opposite that a full investigation and further water testing is occurring at the site to identify and remediate any issues as identified. A full facility audit is also under way to identify any other deficiencies in the building.

But I want to also assure the member opposite that P3s allow government to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects while saving money and transferring that risk to the private sector. As one of the key components of the P3 model, there are no additional costs to government for delays or repairs. Additional costs do not fall on the backs of the taxpayers. And I want to remind members opposite as well, the total cost of the project was $407 million. Taxpayers saved over $15 million on construction alone and will save an additional 90 million over the 30-year life of the P3 contract.

Now, Mr. Speaker, many of us on both sides of the House have toured this wonderful facility. It is state of the art as far as a mental health facility goes. Projects like this do incur some challenges and, Mr. Speaker, this government will make it an ultimate priority to ensure that that takes place. Thank you.

At this point Nicole Sarauer rose on the topic of available space in schools. But she couldn’t resist one last shot at the government.

Ms. Sarauer: — Mr. Speaker, you know what taxpayers would appreciate more? Not having lead in their water.


On Tuesday, the issue of Sask Hospital water erupted again in Question Period, only this time it was opposition leader Ryan Meili and Premier Scott Moe doing battle. 

Mr. Meili: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday the government was quite dismissive when asked about the water at the new North Battleford hospital, Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford — water that cannot be drunk by patients or staff safely because of levels of lead and copper — dismissive about that very serious issue, which leaves me with a question, Mr. Speaker. To the Premier: is there anything else that we should know about what’s wrong with the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that the Minister of Central Services has asked for an audit to be done with respect to the North Battleford hospital, the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford, to ensure that if there are any other delinquencies, if there are any other challenges with the construction of that particular facility, Mr. Speaker, that we’re able to identify what those are and ensure that they are corrected sooner rather than later, Mr. Speaker. This is unfortunate. We’ve had an issue that has been discussed with respect to the roof. We have an issue that we’re getting to the bottom of with respect to some irregularities with the water in the facility, Mr. Speaker.

As we know, many of us in this Assembly were up for the opening of that facility, Mr. Speaker. It truly is a solid investment, replacing a century-old facility, a century-old needed facility, providing a service for all Saskatchewan families, Mr. Speaker. And as you walk through on a tour of that facility, it truly is a facility that is conducive to healing, Mr. Speaker. You see the natural light that is coming into all of the rooms and the flow of the building. It is a good building. It is a building that we will ensure that is constructed to the standards that were to be expected, Mr. Speaker. And we will ensure that that is a building that will be here to service the public, service the families, and service the members of our families here in this province for decades to come.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The question was whether or not there was anything else we should know about. And it’s disappointing the Premier chose not to share the information that surely he has: that wards have been closed at that hospital due to flooding, that patients have been moved from unit to unit due to flooding, that the admissions unit has been closed due to mould, and that we’ve got many patients who are not able to get into that facility, are in other hospitals or in the community or on the streets because of these serious deficiencies in this hospital.

Mr. Speaker, we were supposed to get a brand new, wonderful hospital. Instead it seems we’re getting a mess. Will the Premier come clean about what’s really going on at the North Battleford Saskatchewan Hospital?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I’m not aware of the issue that the Leader of the Opposition is aware of. I would appreciate if he would inform the minister, Mr. Speaker. We’ll be checking into it.

But the fact of the matter is is that the minister has asked for a facility audit to be done of that facility to ensure that it is constructed to the specifications that are required for that facility, Mr. Speaker. The results of that audit, to answer the Leader of the Opposition’s question, the results of that audit will most certainly be made public.

But here is one thing that we can rest assured, Mr. Speaker, is the case. If the NDP [New Democratic Party] had the opportunity, we would not actually be replacing that particular facility. Mr. Speaker, there was a decision made on this side of the House to invest just under $400 million into a facility, Mr. Speaker, a much-needed investment into a facility that is servicing the needs of Saskatchewan families, members of our families across this province, Mr. Speaker. Those members on this side of the House that chose to make not only that investment in the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford . . .


The Speaker: —Order, please. Finish off your answer, Mr. Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, but also investments in health care and education, Mr. Speaker, investments over the course of the last 12 years totalling over $30 billion in the province.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.  

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Aside from the revisionist history there, it’s exceedingly weak that the stories of flooding that we’ve been hearing for weeks and weeks out of North Battleford, this government hasn’t even heard about, hasn’t even had a look at. Why the failure to even supervise your own building, Mr. Speaker? It’s embarrassing.

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