HALIFAX — The redevelopment of Nova Scotia's largest hospital complex will cost about $2 billion — the bulk of which will be funded through a public-private partnership, says Premier Stephen McNeil.
McNeil made the revelations for the first time since the massive project at Halifax's QEII Health Sciences Centre was announced two years ago.
"We have committed now $350 million to announcements that we've already made," McNeil told reporters on Thursday. "The new build will be roughly $2 billion."
McNeil said the exact cost wouldn't be available until the design is finalized and the construction bids are in.
He said a Deloitte cost analysis of typical capital builds in the province determined that a P3 model would provide more cost certainty, although the government won't release the Deloitte report.
"We've seen huge overruns," McNeil said. "We believe this is the best value for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia."
A request will go out this fall to find a partner to design, finance and maintain the project over a 30-year period, a process expected to cost $151 million.
Health care services will be delivered publicly under the funding model, while the private partner will be responsible for construction costs and building maintenance. The government will lease the facilities until it takes back ownership at the end of the 30-year period.
In a news release, Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said he was glad to hear that unionized workers would finally have "safe new facilities to work and receive treatment in."
But MacLean panned the P3 plan, calling it "deeply disappointing."
"Nova Scotians have already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on other costly P3 projects — more than 30 schools, toll roads, and the Burnside jail, just to name a few," he said. "Why are we going down this road again?"
A news conference held with hospital officials also revealed the next phase of the project.
It would see cancer-care services shifted from the Dickson Building at the Victoria General Hospital to the Halifax Infirmary, a move aimed at eliminating patient transfers between the two sites which are just over a kilometre apart.
Dr. Drew Bethune, medical director of the provincial cancer care program, said a large percentage of the 6,000 Nova Scotians who are diagnosed with cancer every year are treated at the QEII. The new facility is to accommodate 15,000 new visits and 52,000 follow-up visits a year.
"I can't stress enough how having all cancer services in one location benefits everyone. The decision ... will make a huge difference in developing collaborative teams and delivering cancer care in a seamless, multi-disciplinary fashion."
The Infirmary will also have an expanded inpatient care centre with more than 600 beds, 28 operating rooms, 33 intensive care beds and 15 intermediate care beds.
A new community outpatient centre will be built in Bayers Lake outside the city core, although most services offered there will also remain at the Infirmary, which will continue as a community hospital for Halifax residents.
Bayers Lake will handle an estimated 28,000 clinic visits and 30,000 X-ray and lab visits a year.
Construction on the Bayers Lake facility is expected to begin in the summer of 2020, while work on the Infirmary's cancer centre, outpatient centre, and an expansion of its inpatient centre and learning centre is expected to start in late 2020.
Both opposition parties were generally receptive to the changes proposed for the hospital complex, but diverged when it came to the P3 funding.
"Although we don't know all the details we are somewhat in favour of the P3," said Progressive Conservative interim leader Karla MacFarlane. "We know that depending on the business plans, sometimes P3s work out well."
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the government was about to move down a costly road, citing instances in British Columbia and Ontario where P3 hospital projects came in well over budget.
"What bowls me over is the poor judgment," said Burrill. "I think the evidence is incontrovertible that this will cost the people of the province more than it would have by traditional delivery."
The overall project also includes renovation work underway at the Dartmouth General Hospital and the renovation of operating rooms at the Hants Community Hospital in Windsor, N.S., which were completed in February.
The project's 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.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press