Nova Scotia

Victoria General hospital plagued by problems since the 1980s

Halifax's Victoria General Hospital has been forced to relocate patients in the intensive care unit because of flooding, the latest in a series of problems at the facility

Hospital tainted by legionella bacteria and hit by repeated flooding is slated to be replaced, eventually

The Victoria General hospital site in Halifax has been experiencing problems for years. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The most recent flooding at Halifax's Victoria General hospital site is only the latest in a series of problems that have plagued the aging facility.

The hospital provides inpatient and outpatient services to tens of thousands of people every year.

When it was opened in 1948, it was a showcase: the largest hospital in the province in terms of the number of employees and beds.

But time has taken its toll on the 67-year-old facility, which is increasingly showing its age.

Here is a chronology of issues:


Legionella bacteria is discovered at the facility. It is carried in the fine mist of water and can be dangerous, even deadly, for people with compromised immune systems.


Hospital implements a bottled water policy for high-risk patients as it tries to figure out how to fix the legionella problem.


A patient dies from legionella.


A plan to treat legionella in the water is delayed as hospital waits for equipment to fix the problem.


A request for proposals is issued to replace the hospital, but the government says it will take 10 years. There's little relief for patients and staff in the interim.

November 2012  

Flooding forces the closure of the Bethune building after a 15-year-old corroded pipe bursts. Water gushes into the building for two or three hours before it is discovered, causing an estimated $1 million in damage.

March 2013

More flooding at the Bethune building. This time it damages part of the first floor and floods the basement, displacing 400 administrative staff. 

October 2013

A dying patient compares the hospital to a third world country and is horrified by conditions on the palliative care floor.

"It's really bad to be living in Canada and to know that's how we treat people when they have cancer," she says.

John Gillis, a spokesperson for the hospital, acknowledges that the hospital "isn't an ideal place to provide care to patients." 

December 2013

An independent evaluation says the aging building is putting patients at risk

"The situation at the Victoria General site has created significant risk for the safe delivery of patient care," the report says.

"This building is the location where care is being provided to some of the organization's most complex and vulnerable patients, and patient safety is dependent on staff members' good judgment every day."

April 2015

Sterilization equipment malfunctions, and hundreds of surgeries are cancelled as the hospital scrambles to rebook urgent cases


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