Work starting soon on aging hospitals in Pugwash, Bridgewater: McNeil

Work starting soon on aging hospitals in Pugwash, Bridgewater: McNeil

The Nova Scotia government is moving ahead with the replacement of an aging, out-of-date hospital in Pugwash after more than a decade of lobbying by concerned community members.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced plans Tuesday to replace the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital with construction starting as early as the fall of 2018.

"We are investing in infrastructure for a healthier Nova Scotia," McNeil said in a news release.

"Building this modern facility will allow us to continue meeting the needs of the community for years to come."

Renos for Bridgewater hospital

The project was one of two health-care announcements made Tuesday. 

McNeil also said the government would fund the preliminary design phase for renovations to the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater, which opened in 1988.

Neither press release mentioned costs for the projects.

The work in Bridgewater is expected to include the addition of a dialysis unit as well as renovations to the emergency department and endoscopy unit. A preliminary design is expected by this fall with construction starting a year later.  

The province also said it would fund the addition of a much-needed third elevator for the hospital with work beginning in June. 

"We're very pleased the province is committing to modernize this facility," Paula Bond, vice-president of integrated health services programs with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said in a news release.

The health authority's 2016-2017 business plan, dated last May, lists both the Bridgewater expansion and the North Cumberland redevelopment as two of five capital construction projects approved for design.

Both hospitals included in AG report

Last year, the province's auditor general singled out South Shore for requiring urgent work on its elevators.

Michael Pickup also said there were more hospitals than the province could afford.

The report said North Cumberland was among several emergency departments that saw an average of fewer than one patient a night, concluding it was "a poor use of resources."

A spokesperson for a citizens' group in Pugwash told CBC News last year that current and previous governments have made promises in the past regarding a new facility but no action had been taken.

"It's gotten as far as a conceptual drawings and architectural drawings, but we've had a number of postponements and delays," Peter Lewis said in February 2016.

The government said it expected a request for proposals for a design consultant would be issued next month with someone in place by mid-summer.

The province said it would work with the health authority to have a final design for the new facility in place by next spring. The facility is expected to include primary health and inpatient care, laboratory and diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation services, and a collaborative emergency care centre.

It will have "flexibility in its design to meet the changing needs of the community," Lindsay Peach, the authority's vice-president of integrated health services community support and management, said in the news release.

Spending spree

The hospital projects are among more than 40 funding announcements the McNeil government has made since March worth more than $65 million. Both hospitals are in Liberal-held ridings.

Opposition leaders have speculated the spending spree is the precursor to an election call and that McNeil is trying to woo voters in advance, which the premier has denied.