It’s a moment parent Charmaine Pyakutch has been waiting for since she first became involved in planning for Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan (CHS) eight years ago.

“I haven’t felt goosebumps or my eyes water like that in quite some time,” says Pyakutch. “All I could think was we are that much closer to achieving our goals that so many have worked so long and hard on over the years. The complexity of the past and hearing about the future construction was amazing to finally visualize up close. Although there is still a lot of work to do, much has been accomplished.”

Parent Charmaine Pyakutch tours the Children's Hospital of Saskatchewan site

Parent Charmaine Pyakutch tours the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan site

Pyakutch donned steel toe shoes, a safety vest and a hard hat, joining leaders from both Saskatoon Health Region and Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan on the CHS construction site as they walked through the first few floors of the new hospital and listened as one of Graham construction supervisors explained in detail the complexity of the build.

“I was in awe to hear the amazing work being done in order to get to the point they were at,” says Pyakutch. “It was an incredible feeling to learn which department of the new Children’s hospital we were standing on while we toured the site. The progress and unique ways Graham Construction has completed the work is astonishing. “

Pyakutch has been a family advisor on the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan Steering Committee since it was first established in 2009. She became involved in planning for the hospital after participating in Saskatoon Health Region’s Children’s Services Patient and Family advisory council. Since then, she actively participated in sessions that created both the early and detailed design for the hospital.

Jackie Mann, Graham Construction

Jackie Mann, executive sponsor of CHS for Saskatoon Health Region, gets some details from Grant Grenier of Graham Construction on an earlier tour of the construction site.

Executive Sponsor of Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan Jackie Mann, who is also chair of the CHS Steering Committee, had invited Pyakutch and other Steering Committee members to walk through the first few floors of the new hospital. Earlier that day, the project team had announced the hospital had hit the 10 per cent completion mark with the sub-basement, the basement and the ground floor visible and work beginning on the main floor.

“I had had the opportunity to walk through the site a few weeks earlier and it’s an overwhelming experience,” explains Mann. “We are so fortunate to work with numerous partners such as the Ministry of Health, Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, University of Saskatchewan, and many others. There are so many people who have been integral in making this hospital a reality, we wanted to share that with some of our Steering Committee members who have been overseeing this entire project since we first received funding back in 2009.”

The ground floor will be home to a new adult and children’s emergency department, along with a new children’s surgery unit with three integrated operating rooms dedicated to pediatric surgery. Mann remembers what she felt standing in the middle of that area for the first time.

The group learns about some of the details of the construction process while standing on the main floor of CHS.

The group learns about some of the details of the construction process while standing on the ground floor of CHS. From left: Nilesh Kavia and Jackie Mann of Saskatoon Health Region, Greg Yuel of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, and Grant Grenier of Graham Construction.

“As I stood on the concrete floor that will become future operating rooms, built specifically for, and dedicated to the children of our province, you can’t help but imagine the area complete and what it will be like for all of us to provide care in this new space and what it will mean to the families of Saskatchewan,” says Mann. “I was also amazed by the complexity of managing the actual construction work and am so impressed by the talented team doing the building.”

Mann says seeing the cranes in action and hearing that about 90 per cent of all material and equipment needed on the site will be coming in via the cranes, then seeing how the concrete for the new building is being pumped from the back of the parkade through a special pipe onto the building site and then poured out through an enormous boom reinforces the unique aspects of this build.

“There were about 100 workers on site the day I toured, and it was great to see the focus that the team has on safety,” says Mann. “I feel so proud of all of the work that has gone into getting us to where we are today, with our new hospital really starting to quickly take shape. There have been so many people that have worked so hard to date- including patients, families, staff, physicians and leaders. But as exciting as this is, when I stand on the actual hospital, I start to get very anxious about the work ahead to prepare for opening day.”

Leanne Smith, director for Saskatoon Health Region’s maternal services, says she felt that anxious feeling as she toured with her fellow Steering Committee members.

“The site tour made it feel so real,” says Smith, whose team will move its services to the new hospital, simultaneously transforming the way they deliver maternal care using a single room maternal care concept. “At the same time, it created a heightened sense of urgency to ensure we are ready to move into the building. I first worked on this project in 2006 and then went on and did other things in the organization and became involved again in 2013.  The site tour confirmed for me that this is really happening. We are going to have a new maternal and children’s hospital.”

The entire team stopped for a photo before the end of the tour.

The entire team stopped for a photo before the end of the tour.

Smith and hundreds of Health Region staff and physicians are now in the throes of operational planning for the new hospital. For the past two and half years, close to three dozen operational areas from maternal services to pediatrics to surgery to housekeeping, laboratory medicine and diagnostic imaging having been developing and implementing their detailed operational readiness plans. These are the tasks that must be done before Saskatoon Health Region receives the keys for the building and starts preparing for move-in. As each area has been developing these, the plans are being integrated to ensure all areas are working together to support the transformational ways both care and support services will be delivered to the new building.

Smith’s team has been moving on their plan, including a number of process improvements they are already putting in place in their current space. Walking through some of the actual building makes her glad they have already started the work to prepare for opening day.

“I was shocked to learn our team’s floor, which is the largest in the new hospital, is about the size of two and a half football fields. We knew it was large, but on floor plans it feels abstract,” says Smith. “Hearing that anecdote as I was walking on the ground floor made it very real. This next year, many of us are focusing on getting our staffing plans, models of care and service delivery all ready for the new facility. We have a lot of work ahead of us in the next two and a half years.”

And it’s knowing that Health Region employees and staff are putting as much thought into how they will improve the care they deliver as they did the design of the building that makes Pyakutch even more excited to see the doors open.

“The present care services in Saskatchewan do not meet the needs of our province. Having this hospital focused on the importance of having families close by will benefit families’ health,” says Pyakutch. “People should not have to endure being away from their loved ones when they are sick. Parents and families will be able to stay with their children while they are admitted. This hospital has been designed to ensure that.”

Hospital construction remains on schedule with opening day anticipated for later 2019.