New entrance put to wheelchair test

On paper, it met the standards but Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc. decided to put its new front entrance to the human test Monday afternoon to make sure it met wheelchair accessibility requirements.
Volunteer Lorraine Sokoliuk wheeled around the million-dollar new entrance at La Verendrye Health Centre, which opened Monday morning, to see if something needed to be changed.
“I think it’s basically wonderful. I really do,” Sokoliuk enthused after her tour, adding it meant a lot to maintain her independence.
Most important, she noted, was being treated like everyone else. Now when she sits before the reception desk, she can look the receptionist in the eye and not be hidden by the counter.
While she found the washroom doors, pay phones, and handicapped parking spaces needed some adjustments (those issues are being taken to senior management), Sokoliuk concluded the new admitting and reception area, along with the hospital auxiliary store, privacy room, and washrooms, was wheelchair friendly.
That’s a big change from a facility that, prior to the start of the renovations, had only one washroom accessible for those in wheelchairs. In fact, Sokoliuk recalled brushing her teeth in the TV room during one hospital stay because she couldn’t get in the washroom.
“To walk up the [ambulance] ramp or to wheel up the ramp was impossible,” she recalled.
“It’s a great improvement. A hospital should meet everybody’s needs,” echoed Laurie Lundale, manager of patient information services. “The flow of traffic should flow much smoother now.”
Monday’s opening means any hospital patients or visitors must use the new Front Street entrance between 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. After hours, those doors will be locked and people asked to use the old ambulance ramp entrance.
Emergencies will continue to use the ambulance ramp entrance at all times.
Meanwhile, Riverside isn’t sure when it will begin the next phase in La Verendrye’s capital renovations–a $3-million revamp of the operating room and surgical services, diagnostic imaging, and the emergency room.
“We would expect that we would get a 50/50 cost share [from the ministry of health],” explained Liz Clark, Riverside’s acting CEO, adding the funding application, along with the sketch plans, were being sent off within the next week.
If that funding arrangement does come through, it means Riverside–and the community–would be responsible for $1.5 million of the cost.
Phases already completed include the rehabilitation department, stores and maintenance, and cafeteria area; consolidation of St. Anne’s and St. Edward’s wards to a 30-bed acute care, ICU, and birthing area; and moving the administration and support services to the second floor.
So far, none of the renovation projects have received senior government funding.