Shovels are hitting the dirt to break ground today on construction of a new health and wellness centre for the Snuneymuxw First Nation near Nanaimo.
The 8,400-square-foot building will be triple the size of the existing facility built in 1999. The extra space will allow for expanded services and programs to Snuneymuxw members as well as the rest of the public.
“Our elders had a strong vision for building this new centre and for improving the lives of our people,” said Snuneymuxw Coun. Regan Seward. “After all these years, our people deserve this.”
The existing health centre was found to be too small as soon as it opened. With the new centre, Snuneymuxw health administrator Charles Nelson said, the nation “planned for growth.”
The total price tag is $4 million. The First Nations Health Authority is contributing $3 million and the Snuneymuxw is responsible for the rest, Nelson said.
It was designed by David Nairne and Associates, which specializes in First Nations projects. Built Contracting of Nanoose Bay will be constructing the centre on reserve land at MacMillan Road and Long House Road (also called Chartwell Road) in Cedar, south of Nanaimo. The site on the edge of the reserve was chosen to allow the public easy access, said Nelson. Cedar’s population is about 8,000 and it is hoped that Nanaimo residents will also visit the centre, he said.
Snuneymuxw’s overall population is about 1,800, with 800 people living on the reserve.
Construction could take up to 18 months, although Nelson is hopeful the building will be completed by December 2018.
Meetings were held among members of the First Nation to solicit community input into the planned centre, which incorporates a Big House design, he said.
The new centre will have four examining rooms, up from the single room in the existing centre. Four physicians and a pediatrician are already working with the current centre.
A business plan for the centre is being developed, Nelson said. It includes an education plan with the goal of developing employment opportunities for band members.
Ideally, the centre will offer a drop-in medical clinic, pharmacy, a laboratory and a three-chair dental office. Plans also include dedicated space for elders to meet, and a community kitchen with room for 50, which is up from 22 in the current space.
Three pharmacies have been in contact to express interest in the new centre, Nelson said.