4 Wing Health Care Centre opens

4 Wing Health Care Centre
4 Wing Health Care Centre is in operation although the official opening in March was postponed due to the pandemic. Photo: Submitted

Cliff Kenyon

The untimely arrival of the pandemic couldn’t have been worse to cause trouble for the opening of the new 4 Wing Health Care Centre.

But civilian staff and Canadian Armed Forces members at the new centre have proven they can overcome challenges presented by an unexpected foe.

“Fortunately, we all work pretty well together,” said Capt. April Murphy, a former Medical Technician and now a Health Care Administrator at the centre.

The pandemic and social distancing measures hit the week the centre was scheduled to open. A quiet, official ceremony was held, then staff took up the challenge with new and unexpected rules.

“The opening went smoothly,” said Murphy, despite the “fast and furious” arrival of the pandemic.

“It shows the resiliency of the Canadian Armed Forces members together with our civilian staff.”

Prior to opening of the new centre, medical services offered at 4 Wing were housed in a variety of locations. Now, with the new centre all health services are under one roof, improving efficiency, said Murphy.

While staff may have expected to welcome visitors to their new digs with an official opening in March any celebrations were postponed as they turned to more important duties.

“It’s different than we expected,” said Murphy. “But it’s all very functional. We mustered all the morale we could to make it all work.”

Visitors to the centre are now checked as they enter the building and unexpected protocols for safety because of the pandemic have been introduced.

Dental facilities occupy one side of the top floor. There is a walk-in medical clinic for Canadian Armed Forces members plus other services such as a care delivery unit, facilities for physiotherapy, a dietician and mental health specialists, a pharmacy, lab and preventative medicine services. There is also a team of office staff performing variety of key tasks.

The building is similar to other medical centres built recently at other bases.

“It’s a clinical model that works well,” said Murphy. “The health services centres will look similar on all the bases.”

In some cases, patients may be referred to local medical specialists or outside of Cold Lake region. Those arrangements are taken care of by medical office staff members.

“We keep relationships with Cold Lake Hospital and the medical community pretty tight,” said Murphy.

Historically, medical specialists in the Cold Lake regions would attend to patients at Cold Lake Hospital and the 4 Wing base hospital which used to occupy the site where the new medical centre now is.

In total, there is a staff of about 70 Canadian Armed Forces and civilian workers.

“It’s a busy day every day,” said Murphy.

Due to the pandemic, many plans already in place, such as travel plans for patients or CAF members had to be postponed and travel documentation altered.

Specialized office staff members take care of tasks such as preparing documentation for troops going on deployment. Most recently, the centre was busy sending some bilingual medical personnel to assist in the pandemic fight in Quebec.

“We have to be sure 4 Wing members are ready to go out the door at any time (on deployments/operations),” said Murphy.

4 Wing Health Care Centre
4 Wing Health Care Centre is a proven design similar to other centres at other Canadian Armed Forces bases. Photo: Submitted
4 Wing Health Care Centre
The new 4 Wing Health Care Centre is on the same location as the original 4 Wing hospital. Photo: Submitted
4 Wing Health Care Centre
A cabinet from the original 4 Wing Hospital is on display at the new medical centre. Photo: Submitted