N.S. government plans value-for-money study of Halifax Infirmary redevelopment project

Work at the Halifax Infirmary has so far included a new pedway linking the hospital and a new parking garage and renovations to the entrances on Summer Street and Robie Street. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)
Work at the Halifax Infirmary has so far included a new pedway linking the hospital and a new parking garage and renovations to the entrances on Summer Street and Robie Street. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)

Internal Services Minister Colton LeBlanc says he wants to see shovels in the ground this summer at the Halifax Infirmary.

But LeBlanc, who is tasked with overseeing major health-care construction projects in Nova Scotia, says a contract for the massive redevelopment project will not be signed until a value-for-money analysis is complete.

LeBlanc told reporters on Thursday that his government has contracted Deloitte to do the work. The firm did a previous analysis for the former Liberal government that said using a public-private partnership approach at the infirmary offered the best value.

But construction on the project as originally planned never hit its stride and last month the government announced it would approach the work in stages in an effort to go faster.

The previous plan was to have a single plant for the entire site, whereas the new plan will use multiple plants to allow each section to open as it becomes ready. Plenary PCL Health is the lone bidder on the project.

Before a contract is signed, however, LeBlanc said it makes sense to have another look at the financial details, given how much the economic climate has changed from the one the Liberals operated in before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

The province has a duty to deliver heath-care services to Nova Scotians and these construction projects are part of that duty, said LeBlanc, "but we also have a duty to manage risk and control cost," he added.

The government has yet to put a final price tag on the project that will eventually include other features such as a new cancer care centre.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said a new value-for-money study is the right call.

Much has changed since the development, which is part of the larger QEII New Generation Project, was announced in 2015. Since the Tories formed government in 2021, Chender said the public has not received enough details about plans and costs.

She welcomed LeBlanc's announcement.

"That's more than we've gotten from any minister in months," she told reporters in Halifax on Thursday.

Michael Gorman/CBC
Michael Gorman/CBC

The expanded plans at the infirmary, which include a new emergency department, 72 new in-patient beds and more operating rooms, is part of a broader overhaul of health-care construction projects the Tories announced last month for the Halifax area.

Those efforts also include the creation of two patient transition facilities. Those are sites where patients can go when they're well enough to no longer require an acute-care bed, but they are not ready to return home.

The units will also be able to host people waiting for long-term care beds, so they are not taking up space in hospitals.

One of the transition facilities is being built in Bayers Lake, while the other is slated to open sometime this year in an existing building.

No timeline

LeBlanc said details about the existing building are being finalized. He said he could offer no timeline for when the site would be ready, other than to say it is expected to open this year.

A key focus of the projects announced by the Tories last month is to increase acute-care beds around Halifax Regional Municipality and ensure they're being appropriately used and managed.

Emergency room doctors in Halifax expressed concern in an open letter on Thursday to Premier Tim Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson that without improved patient flow and bed access inside hospitals, the problems patients are experiencing with long waits in emergency departments would continue.