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Cost analysis of $2B Halifax hospital project to be released, official says

HALIFAX — A consultant's cost analysis on the estimated $2-billion redevelopment of Atlantic Canada's largest hospital complex will be released — but not yet, a Nova Scotia legislature committee was told Tuesday.
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HALIFAX — A consultant's cost analysis on the estimated $2-billion redevelopment of Atlantic Canada's largest hospital complex will be released — but not yet, a Nova Scotia legislature committee was told Tuesday.

Deputy minister Paul LaFleche said the Department of Infrastructure Renewal wouldn't release the report by Deloitte until pending design and construction bids are evaluated over the coming months.

"Once the bids are in and we have evaluated them and made a decision we will put out all of that information," LaFleche told the health committee, although he wasn't specific about a timeline that could take several months or even years.

The government has said the bulk of the redevelopment of Halifax's QEII Health Sciences Centre will be funded through a public-private partnership, although the opposition parties have long called for the report's release in order to evaluate the reasoning for the use of the P3 funding model.

LaFleche said the government believes the current funding option referred to as "design, build, finance and maintain" is the best for a quicker build and a better fiscal outcome.

"If it turns out that they (bids) don't, we're not ideologically wed to things," he said.

LaFleche later clarified for reporters that if the bid numbers don't appear to bring the value for money that a traditional public build would, then the department would have to go back to Treasury Board to discuss a potential reconsideration of how to fund the project.

"We don't think that's going to happen, but we are anxious to see the (bids)."

Under the funding arrangement the government would own the facilities, although the winning bidder would maintain them over a 30-year period.

The province began its search for the team that will design, construct, finance and maintain some of the new construction in December, issuing two requests for supplier qualifications.

The requests are for a new community outpatient centre to be built on a 15-acre site in Bayers Lake, and for upgrades and additions to the Halifax Infirmary site, which include a new cancer centre, outpatient centre, inpatient centre, more hospital beds and operating rooms, and a new learning centre.

John O'Connor, the department's executive director of major infrastructure renewal, told reporters a short list of design teams for the Bayers Lake project would be released soon with a request for proposals to be issued in July and final bids expected by December. He said the contract is expected to be awarded in the spring with construction to begin in the summer or fall of 2020.

He said the timeline for the Infirmary site would be longer, with the shortlist of potential teams released by the end of June and a request for proposals issued in January or February.

"We anticipate now a February, March time period of 2021 before we have a project team in place on the Halifax Infirmary new builds. Those are four large buildings that have to be planned and designed by those proponent teams during the bidding period."

The project's ultimate goal is to move services out of the existing Centennial and Victoria buildings at the Victoria General site in Halifax to prepare for their eventual closure.

O'Connor said steps were taken in Deloitte's report to ensure there was no P3 bias on the part of the consultant. He said the report compares data supplied by the province on traditional builds with data supplied by P3 projects from across the country.

But NDP committee member Susan Leblanc said her concerns around P3 weren't satisfied by what she heard during the hearing.

"We still don't know why P3 is the model the government has chosen," said Leblanc. "We hear that we are getting the best value for our money, but we don't have any details about it, and it sounds like we won't have any details for years to come."

Leblanc said she would like to see some sort of comparison to other funding models laid out in the meantime.

"This is $2-billion we're talking about. Nova Scotians deserve to understand where their money is going and that it is actually being spent in the best way possible."

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press




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