Nfld. & Labrador

Price tag missing as Corner Brook hospital finally gets green light

Premier Dwight Ball announced Friday a new 164-bed hospital will be built in Corner Brook, but stopped short of revealing how much it will cost.

Long-awaited hospital to be built in public-private partnership

Dwight Ball announced the new hospital for Corner Brook in a news conference Friday. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Premier Dwight Ball announced Friday that a new 164-bed hospital will be built in Corner Brook using a public-private partnership, although he stopped short of revealing how many "tens of millions of dollars" will be spent to make it happen. 

Construction on the hospital is expected to start in 2019, although Ball and other politicians refrained to reveal a major detail about the project at a news conference: its cost. 

The hospital will be on the same site as a previously announced 120-bed long-term care home, which will now be built as a separate project rather than a component of a larger health complex. 

"This is going to be a reality for people living in western Newfoundland and Labrador," Ball told reporters after announcing details on a project that has been in the works since the administration of former Tory premier Danny Williams. 

Ball said the new hospital should be opened by the fall of 2023.

'This is long overdue'

The announcement comes as a welcome surprise for co-chair of the hospital action committee Gerald Parsons, who has been advocating for a new facility for 10 years.

" I'm overjoyed. This is long overdue," said Parsons. 

"This has been going on since 2007. I think this is the final announcement. We waited too long for this."

The hospital will be designed and built by the private sector, while services like patient care, laundry and housekeeping will be provided by public employees.

"While it is critical that we provide needed health care facilities, it is equally important that we do so in a cost-effective manner, attaining the greatest value for taxpayers' dollars," said Minister of Transportation and Works Al Hawkins.

The new hospital will replace the existing Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook. (CBC)

Under the public-private (P3) arrangement, the contractor assumes financial responsibility for the project, with payment made when the facility is operational.

There will also be financial penalties for not meeting the terms of the contract, which will run 30 years.

Taxpayers will save money: Ball

While not revealing the current budget for the hospital, Ball said the private-public partnership will mean savings of seven per cent for the taxpayer

" When this project reached maximum construction period time, you are going to see tens of millions of dollars spent on this here," Ball said. 

"Logistically alone, this will create quite a bit of economic impetus but also meeting the acute and long-term care needs of the people in western Newfoundland," Ball said. 

The new hospital will include surgery and maternity care, as well as an expanded cancer care program.

Health Minister John Haggie said this will cut down on patient travel.

"In the new facility, residents of the western region will benefit from the inclusion of an enhanced cancer care program, which will include radiation services so that individuals who require this treatment will be able to receive it near the supportive environment of family and friends, " he said. 

$40M spent so far

The Canadian Union of Public Employees criticized the public-private partnership, saying it will cost taxpayers more than if the hospital were publicly owned and constructed.

The union rallied Monday against using the same type of arrangement to build a long-term care facility in Corner Brook.

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on design work, but the site for the long-awaited hospital in Corner Brook remains empty. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The long-term care centre and hospital have been promised numerous times over the years, with both PC and Liberal governments spending $40 million on plans since the plan was first announced a decade ago. 

Of that, $22 million has been spent on various designs, and $18 million on preparing the site.

After the Liberals were elected in 2015, the government said it would spend another $10 million to come up with a revised plan before deciding how to proceed. 

With files from Gary Moore


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