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Editorial: Let us know when it’s done

Cindy Davis, Western Health's chief executive officer, speaks during a press conference Thursday at the site of the new regional hospital being constructed in Corner Brook.
Cindy Davis, Western Health’s chief executive officer, speaks during Thursday’s news conference Thursday at the site of the new regional hospital in Corner Brook. — Western Star file photo

This time, it was a 651-word news release with attached comments from Premier Dwight Ball and three — count ’em, three — cabinet ministers, and contact numbers for four different communications staff.

The message, though, is the same as it has been for more than a decade: things are moving ahead. Slowly.

The press conference and news release on the progress of a new hospital and a long-term care facility was last Thursday.

Through good financial times and bad financial times, Corner Brook has been promised a new hospital for over 12 years now, with politicians announcing that steel would start going up immediately — as long ago as 2012.

Corner Brook residents would probably settle for someone delivering on their RFH (request for a hospital).

The latest step, requiring so much fanfare?

That the two consortia who replied to the request for qualifications (RFQ) are both moving on to the next step, preparing detailed requests for proposals (RFP) for the project.

Corner Brook residents would probably settle for someone delivering on their RFH (request for a hospital).

The teams, of course, are national and international in scope. One, with a team lead based in Madrid, Spain, has 11 companies involved, with six of the firms from outside the province, including all the main contractors, designers and equity partners. The other, led by a Toronto firm, has 13 companies, with 10 of the partner companies based in Ontario or Alberta.

It’s taken almost five months for those two consortia to move to the next stage. The winner of the RFP will come a year from now, with construction to begin shortly after that. Hopefully.

But Corner Brook has heard that before. Many times.

The timing, of course, is pretty much exactly right for giant signs to go up proclaiming some sort of work was beginning, just in time for the 2019 provincial election — but of course, thinking that way would be far too cynical, right?

Consider this part of Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne’s comment on the news release: “Residents of Western Newfoundland were left with empty promises for way too long about building a modern health-care facility to meet their needs.”

That statement would be just as true if it was a preamble to a question from the opposition in question period in the House of Assembly. Byrne follows it up with, “Our government is delivering on our promise.”

In 2012, then-finance minister Tom Marshall said he wouldn’t leave politics until the hospital was under construction, adding, “And I plan to retire soon.”

Marshall retired in 2014. Asked then about his commitment, he pointed out a milestone of his own: “They did work this summer — they did water and sewer work.”

The hospital is needed — but it is also a massive capital investment in a province with very little capital.

And promises about milestones — even loud promises with plenty of ministers — are much cheaper.

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