More than three years after a second tragic fall from the fourth-floor balcony in the atrium of the Brandon Regional Health Centre, officials are still finalizing plans to construct new safety barriers.
"We continue to work through the necessary steps of the health facility capital planning process," read an emailed statement from Prairie Mountain Health spokesman Blaine Kraushaar. "Currently, we are working on the design-construction documents that, once approved, would allow us to go to tender with the project."
Plans to install permanent barriers on the third, fourth, and fifth-floor balconies overlooking the atrium were made by the Brandon Regional Health Authority in 2011, after two people died after jumping from the fourth floor in separate incidents within seven months.
Temporary Plexiglas barriers were installed following the second incident in July 2011, and were to be replaced with permanent structures by summer 2012. However, the stairway looking over the atrium didn’t work with the temporary design. As a result, the atrium staircase from the second floor up has been closed for security purposes ever since.
Nearly a year ago, hospital spokesman Brian Schoonbaert indicated that a solution to construct barriers over the atrium balconies had been finalized and that the RHA had expected Manitoba Health to quickly approve the new cost for the project. At that time, the Sun reported that the RHA hoped to have the barriers up and the stairway reopened by the end of 2013.
Options that included tearing down the original structure and starting from scratch were laid on the table, but the RHA said those would be too expensive and wanted to maintain the original structure.
But the project has suffered from considerable delays.
"We are working as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure we have the most effective and safe options available for our patients/clients/visitors to Brandon Regional Health Centre," read Kraushaar’s statement in response to a Sun question regarding the reason for the construction delay. "We need to ensure that this complex retrofit design, into the existing infrastructure of the BRHC, is safe and secure and prevents the very tragic incidents — which occurred at BRHC — from ever happening again."
A government spokeswoman with Manitoba Health yesterday suggested that once the retrofit design work got underway, it became clear that the project was more complex than originally thought, and more costly.
"This is because of the challenges of integrating and attaching new glazing materials into the existing handrail system in a way that will safely withstand someone climbing on the barrier," she wrote. "This project remains a priority for both the region and the province, and it’s very unfortunate the timelines have taken longer than expected."
Both the RHA and Manitoba Health expect tenders for the project to be issued sometime early next year.