November 30, 2023

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Halifax Infirmary expansion moving forward, but revised cost estimate unknown

The Nova Scotia government says the stalled Halifax Infirmary expansion project is moving forward.

The Halifax Infirmary expansion was put on hold in the fall after the hospital project’s lone bidder, Plenary PCL Health, failed to submit its final proposal by the Nova Scotia government’s Oct. 27 deadline.

At the time, Colton LeBlanc, Nova Scotia’s minister responsible for health-care redevelopment projects, said the province and Plenary decided not to proceed given current economic conditions affecting the construction industry, such as inflation and labour shortages.

But in a release Tuesday, the province said it is in the “final stages of concluding an agreement under the existing Halifax procurement process” with Plenary.

During a news conference later Thursday morning, Premier Tim Houston did not release a revised estimate for the project, originally projected to cost $2 billion when it was first announced in 2016.

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The proposed plan at the Halifax Infirmary now includes a new patient tower with four additional operating rooms, a new emergency department and a new cancer care centre.

“The Province will plan to move patients out of distressed areas of the Victoria General site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre prior to the completion of the new patient tower, as well as relocate lab services from the MacKenzie Building,” the release said.

Houston said Thursday that health-care professionals deserve to work in modern facilities that enable them to provide the best care for patients.

“If we are serious about recruiting more people to join them, we need to give them a workplace they want to be in,” Houston said.

“Every day that this takes is a day too long. We are going to get you into better working conditions,” he said in a presser, addressing healthcare professionals.

As for cost, the premier said in a presser it’ll be “a lot” – in the billions.

“We’re not trying to cut corners… This is about making the necessary investments. We will spend what it takes.”

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Houston said if the province can’t get the infrastructure right, it’s doing a disservice to Nova Scotians.

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The hospital project was pegged at $2 billion when it was first announced by the former Liberal government in 2018. In June the province said the cost was likely significantly higher because of inflation, although officials have refused to give a new estimate.

The Halifax Infirmary redevelopment part of the province’s plan to improve health-care infrastructure.

The province also said Tuesday they plan to expand the Dartmouth General Hospital to include a new emergency department and more beds, add new inpatient services at the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville, and build two standalone transition-to-community centres in the Halifax area, including one in Bayers Lake.

Part of the Dartmouth hospital expansion and Bayers Lake facility were previously announced.

“We are well past the starting point. The leases have already been signed for the land for new offsite builds in HRM. Considerable work has already been done on the design of the new patient tower,” said Houston in the release.

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Part of QEII redevelopment pushing forward amid Halifax Infirmary stall

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“The work will proceed without delay and shovels will be in the ground much sooner than what would have been possible under the previous plan.”

The release also said the government is working with the medical community and organizations to begin planning construction of a new mental health and addictions campus, a new rehabilitation and arthritis centre and a new heart health centre.

Houston said the old plan for healthcare expansion had no capacity to respond to a population that is aging and growing. In fact, he said it planned for a decline in population which is “not the trajectory” Nova Scotia is on.

“Nova Scotians deserve better than to be told they need to wait a decade,” he said.

“This is the future of healthcare in Halifax and in Nova Scotia… better care, delivered quicker.

“I want to assure all Nova Scotians that I will not rest until health care is fixed.”

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