Saskatoon

NDP questions P3s after North Battleford, Yellowknife hospitals use same contractor, have similar issues

The provincial opposition wants more information on Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford after problems have been uncovered at a hospital in Yellowknife with links to the facility.

Opposition says both hospitals originally connected to now-defunct Carillion PLC

The provincial NDP is raising concerns around Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The provincial opposition wants more information on the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford after problems have been uncovered at a hospital in Yellowknife with links to the facility.

CBC News reported in October that there were serious problems, including water leaks and mould issues, at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford has also been plagued with issues, including needing a roof replacement and issues with the building's drinking water system — which was deemed unsafe to drink due to high levels of lead or copper.

Both facilities are public-private partnership projects (sometimes called P3s) once headed up by British company Carillion PLC, which had the contract to maintain both hospitals for 30 years. In 2018, Carillion went into liquidation and the contracts were picked up by other companies.

NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said it's concerning to see another facility linked to Carillion having issues.

"We see the same contractor being involved in the process, sort of the same timeline we're looking at here," said Mowat.

In October, a third-party audit of the Saskatchewan hospital project was triggered. A request for proposals on the audit was sent out last week.

Mowat said the opposition has been receiving information on the North Battleford facility through people who work there.

"We've been sort of relying on rumours," she said. "People speaking out quietly because they're afraid of what the repercussions will be for their employment."

SNC-Lavalin was eventually chosen to take over as the facility manager of Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. In Yellowknife, a company called Dexterra took over the project.

The Saskatchewan hospital project was built by a group called Access Prairies Partnership (APP), a coalition that included Graham Design Partners, Gracorp Capital Advisors and WSP Canada.

Mowat also criticized the P3 process, calling for a Sask.-first procurement plan be brought in.

"I think there's a responsibility to the public of the province when we have local companies involved," said Mowat.

"When we look at the quality and the responsibility and the the accountability of having local folks involved."

SaskBuilds said that since creating the new Single Procurement Service in April, it has been involved in awarding over 250 procurements valued at over $148 million. 

"It is also important to remember that public procurement is subject to various interprovincial, national and international trade agreements, and that shutting out suppliers from outside Saskatchewan would most likely be viewed as a trade violation," said spokesperson Lisa Danyluk.

The third-party construction audit will review the quality of materials, equipment, labour and workmanship used during building. It's expected to be completed sometime in the spring.

As well, a process review will look at whether the project adhered to terms in the agreement and use those lessons to apply to future major projects.

While costs for any repairs for the building will be absorbed by APP, Mowat said problems at the Saskatchewan hospital have been very disruptive to clients and staff.

"[The hospital] isn't fully open," she said.

"We aren't accepting new patients. There are patients who have been displaced. And when you think about the types of vulnerable people in that hospital, there is a huge cost to those patients and their families having to relocate them."

The Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford formally opened to patients in March and cost $407 million.

In November, 67 per cent of the Saskatchewan Hospital's non-secure units were occupied, with the 24-bed admissions unit not in use.  

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