The All-Nations Hospital, a project that has been in the works since before the COVID-19 pandemic began, is almost through the first phase of planning.

Ray Racette, Lake of the Woods District Hospital President, and CEO says they prioritized the project through COVID-19.

“We’ve been working on it throughout the pandemic,” says Racette. “We expect to have the first phase of our planning pretty well signed to the extent it can be within the next small number of weeks.”

“We had a meeting last week with the capital planning group with the Ministry [ of Health] on the project.”

The completion date deadline for phase one of the planning stage is set to expire at the end of April.  

Phase two, which the All-Nations Steering Committee has already begun, look further into the functional services of the hospital.

“That’s more detailed planning, which works more at the service level in terms of how services function. We’re into that planning now. Ultimately, our goal is to submit the entire planning by the end of the calendar year.”

Racette adds that there are plans to provide the public with further information on the project soon.

A lot of planning and time has gone into this project. Back in December of 2019, the hospital project entered its community engagement phase. Lake of the Woods District Hospital and Kenora Chiefs Advisory each hired a Community Engagement Project Planner.

The Kenora Chiefs Advisory, Grand Council Treaty #3, the Kenora Métis Council, Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent First Nation, the City of Kenora, and the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls have all signed a resolution to work together in partnership to develop the All Nations healthcare system.

The first phase of the project’s planning process was approved by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in early January, 2019, but COVID-19 caused disruptions.

The project is expected to take at least six years until completion if all project phases receive approvals in a timely manner. 

The hospital would follow a model based on the Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout and aims to ensure that Kenora and the First Nations communities in the region have better access to health care. The initiative began as Chiefs, Elders and health directors from the community visited an All Nations Hospital model in Saskatchewan in 2011 and developed a vision of having a similar model in the Kenora area.

The Lake of the Woods District Hospital was established in 1929 and is in “urgent” need of replacement. The new hospital will have improved spaces for staff, spaces for Indigenous ceremonies, a larger emergency room, updated accessibility projects, and more of a focus on emerging technologies for both staff and patients. An estimation of the cost of the new hospital has not been released.

The project does not currently have an approved location. Project partners have looked at building a brand-new hospital in a new location, or expanding the current hospital at the existing site, as staff say there are benefits to the location.

A decision or new location has not been approved at this time. In June of 2017, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provided $2.5 million in funding to assist the Lake of the Woods District Hospital and the city’s All-Nations Health Committee with the new hospital’s planning process.