Some people in eastern P.E.I. are calling a decision to replace the Kings County Memorial Hospital a game-changer for the area.
The province made the announcement in the capital budget Tuesday.
After 50 years, time has taken its toll on the hospital, Three River's Mayor Ed MacAulay said.
"It continually needs repairs. It's sorta like taking your car to the garage every month, you know, to keep it going, and the hospital's been like that for quite a few years now," MacAulay said.
The capital budget includes a five-year plan, with $13.3 million for the hospital. Planning will begin in the next fiscal year. As that planning proceeds, the full cost of the hospital will be determined.
Working in a nice, modern facility improves morale and could help with recruitment and retention of staff, said Rachel Currie, Kings County Memorial Hospital's director of nursing.
"The value base in health care comes from the people delivering the care, and it's really hard to deliver care sometimes when you're faced with the barrier of old facilities," Currie said.
"I mean, we actually have staff who were born in this facility."
'It would give me a lot more independence'
There is hope the replacement for the hospital could mean some residents like Rebecca Thacker could avoid long travel times for treatment.
"I have to travel to Summerside or Charlottetown for a lot of diagnostic procedures — you know, CAT scans, MRIs, pulmonary function tests, those things — so this could possibly provide some of those services for us," Thacker said.
She doesn't drive and said travel expenses add up.
"It costs me to pay for gas. It takes a person's time to do that, sometimes my family has to take time off of work to come and help me, so it would give me a lot more independence," Thacker said.
According to Health PEI, most of the hospital's 30 beds are usually full. For local resident Laurie Toms, this means both of her parents have to receive care in Charlottetown.
"They both fell within the last two weeks and they both had to be taken to Charlottetown because Montague is only open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the emergency department, and it was in the middle of the night," Toms said.
"Having them go here in 15 minutes, or to Charlottetown in 45 minutes to an hour, can make a big difference."
Where the hospital will go, what it will look like and how much it will cost in the end is still being worked out.
P.E.I.'s Finance Minister Darlene Compton said in the legislature Tuesday that construction will start in 2025.