Nfld. & Labrador

Corner Brook hospital consultant in conflict of interest, says NDP

The planned new hospital for Corner Brook continues to be a source of controversy, as government announces that EY consulting will act as procurement advisor for the new acute care facility.

Local advocate doesn't like $1.7M contract either, saying 'Get it built.'

The current hospital in Corner Brook was built in the 1970s, while parts of the building are decades older than that. (CBC)

The latest contract for a new Corner Brook hospital is drawing criticism from both an advocacy group and a provincial opposition party.

The $1.7-million contract to EY, announced Sept. 8, means the consulting firm will act as procurement advisor for the hospital project.

A long-term care facility and an acute care centre will be built through a public-private partnership (P3), with EY onboard to oversee the project, and keep it on time and on budget.

NDP leader Earle McCurdy is alleging a potential conflict of interest over the choice of EY as advisor, because the company did an assessment in 2016 which recommended a public-private partnership.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy says EY was also hired to do the report that recommended building the hospital through a public-private partnership. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

He said the details of why a P3 was considered the better choice have never been fully revealed, and yet EY now has the contract to take the project to the next stage.

"EY advises the government, with a very secretive process. They say here's the best route, go the P3 route. And, lo and behold, in very short order, they get a very lucrative contract to start the implementation of that P3 that they recommended in the first place," said McCurdy.

"That sure sounds pretty cozy to me. I think there's a real conflict of interest in there."

The NDP and public sector unions maintain that a public-private partnership is not the most efficient or cost-effective way to build a public-sector building.

"We believe there's some serious problems with that. It's been shown in several other provinces and in other countries that the P3 is in fact considerably more expensive," said McCurdy.

Minister defends process 

Steve Crocker, minister of transportation and works, said EY has experience with overseeing construction of 35 hospitals, and its proposal to government was chosen fairly and for good reason, after receiving two submissions from companies interested in the work.

"They were evaluated in three categories — experience and expertise, team composition, and personal experience. And EY scored the highest, and we awarded this to EY."

Steve Crocker is Minister of Transporation and Works. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Crocker said the firm timelines discussed in government announcements earlier this year will be adhered to, including the plan to start construction of the long-term care facility this fall.

He said the contract will be awarded within the next few weeks, with completion of the facility still set for 2019.

The hospital is a different story, with construction not expected to start until 2019 with completion in 2023.

'Get it built'

"It's time to get on with the building the hospital," said Gerald Parsons, vice-chair of the Western Hospital Action Committee. "If you're going to build it, get it built." 

The hospital has been in the planning stage for several years, after the provincial Progressive Conservatives promised a new facility during the 2007 provincial election. 

Parsons said a new hospital is desperately needed for the western region, and the promise was that construction on the long-term care part of the complex would start before the end of this year.

Gerald Parsons of the Western Hospital Action Committee says it's time to get the new hospital built in Corner Brook. (CBC)

"This has been going on since 2007. If we don't see steel stuck this fall, I'll be very disappointed," he told the Corner Brook Morning Show.

Crocker said he understands people's eagerness and even impatience to see work start, but he claims the Liberal government is serious about delivering what was promised.

"They were hoodwinked from 2007 to 2015 when we had a government out announcing a hospital. Pretty much all they did with this hospital was announce it."

As for getting steel in the ground, as Parsons suggested, Crocker admitted that may not happen this year, but there will be work on site.

"There's a lot of early construction that's going to have to happen. There's going to be foundation work. We are committed to having a contractor on site this fall, and to start construction on the long-term care facility in Corner Brook." 

About the Author

Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.