Manitoba

Manitoba Tories scrap over $1B in health-care infrastructure projects

Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government is axing more than $1 billion in planned health-care facilities across the province, including new facilities for CancerCare Manitoba and as well as three clinics and a personal care home.

Blaming fiscal constraints, PCs cut plans for personal care home, facilities for CancerCare and 3 clinics

CBC's Sean Kavanagh reports on Manitoba government cutting $1B in health-care infrastructure projects 2:15

A $300-million new centre for CancerCare Manitoba is among numerous planned health-care facilities across the province, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion in total, that have been axed by the Progressive Conservative government.

Plans for several new clinics and a personal care home are also not going ahead.

"The decision that we received, it's not something that I wanted to hear … which they do understand," Dr. Sri Navaratnam, CancerCare's president and CEO, said after meeting with government officials on Wednesday afternoon.

"I do understand the difficulty of the ... financial difficulty in health care which we are all going through at a different level. But we are committed to provide the patient care. That just cannot be compromised and will not be compromised. And we will work with the government to find a way."

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province can't afford any new facilities because they exceed a cap on health infrastructure spending.

"This is not an easy day. This is not a happy day for me as minister because there isn't a project that comes to this office that isn't a good project, that isn't worthwhile, that … wouldn't help someone," he said Wednesday.

Goertzen said the province is redirecting what capital money is available to "fund things that are in a crisis, that are an emergency within our system.

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen, left, and Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen say some health infrastructure projects are urgent, so others need to be put on a back burner. A number of projects will not be going forward as a result. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)
"So we are funding projects in the millions of dollars to ensure that emergency capital is going forward, to ensure that equipment that needs to be replaced [is replaced]."

Some $30 million in funding will go to 95 projects throughout the province "to avoid the deterioration of buildings and other infrastructure within our health-care system," the government said. The list of projects that will be funded do not involve new construction. Instead, capital spending will go toward repairs and upgrades in existing facilities.

List of cancelled projects 

Most of the cancelled projects had been announced by the previous NDP government between 2012 and 2016, before it was defeated by the Tories in last spring's election. The projects, and the current government's estimated costs for them, include:

  • Personal care home in Lac du Bonnet (estimated cost $32 million).
  • Northern consultation clinic in Thompson ($9 million).
  • St. Vital primary care access clinic ($4.7 million).
  • The Pas primary care clinic ($5.3 million).
  • CancerCare Manitoba facility ($300 million).

Navaratnam said the CancerCare centre, which would have put all of its services together under one roof, cannot be built without provincial funding. It currently rents space in several buildings.

Plans for a blood bank in St. Boniface, which had not been previously announced, will also not go ahead. The PCs say that project was estimated to cost $2.1 million.

Three other projects that were announced by the NDP have not been approved by the Treasury Board:

  • A new facility for the Pan Am Clinic in Winnipeg.
  • A Concordia wellness centre.
  • An international centre for dignity and palliative care.

Milton Sussman, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said he's pleased to hear about the projects that are getting the green light.

"We also appreciate the need for fiscal restraint and prudent management of resources. It's understandable that some projects within the region cannot move forward at this time," he said in a statement.

"Our focus remains on providing safe and sustainable patient care for the more than 700,000 people we serve."

The NDP, now in Opposition, accused the PCs on Wednesday of cancelling a number of other projects.

A government spokesperson told CBC News that aside from an MRI facility for the Dauphin Health Centre, for which a decision is pending, the following projects are completed or almost completed:

  • Grand Rapids nursing station replacement — completed and occupied September 2016.
  • Moose Lake nursing station replacement — completed and occupied in the fall of 2016.
  • Thompson Northern Youth Crisis Centre — nearing completion.
  • Thompson General Hospital Community Cancer Program — nearing completion.

With files from Sean Kavanagh