Tender award for Halifax Infirmary redevelopment delayed 'due to market conditions'

·4 min read
One of the recommendations in an internal report on the Halifax Infirmary redevelopment project is that a new emergency department be added to the plans. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
One of the recommendations in an internal report on the Halifax Infirmary redevelopment project is that a new emergency department be added to the plans. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The tender for the redevelopment of the Halifax Infirmary was scheduled to be awarded in late spring of this year, but a government spokesperson confirms it is being delayed.

"Due to current market conditions, we have been requested to extend the financial close of the [Halifax Infirmary expansion project] by several months and are working toward that extension," a statement to CBC News attributed to officials with the departments of Health and Public Works reads.

The Halifax Infirmary is the largest part of what's known as the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre New Generation project. Projected in 2018 to cost $2 billion, the work also included expansions and renovations at the Dartmouth General Hospital and Hants Community Hospital and the construction of a new outpatient centre in Bayers Lake.

While work on the $259.4-million outpatient clinic remains on time and on budget, the government's statement says "a financial update to the [Halifax Infirmary] project will be provided in the future."

Population growth outstripping projections

It's difficult to know what constitutes market conditions, as per the government's statement, but internal documents obtained by CBC show Nova Scotia's booming population — particularly in the Halifax area — has created concerns that the plans for the infirmary need to be revisited.

The documents are from an internal presentation in February for officials connected to the redevelopment. They show the anticipated population growth of the province is already outpacing projections from 2015 when planning for major hospital redevelopment projects across the province started to take shape.

According to the documents, the QEII New Generation team is being asked to develop business cases for certain programs and services, "exploring the potential for the programs/services to be added to the existing Halifax Infirmary expansion project, or to be included in a future phase of redevelopment."

Recommendations discussed during the meeting include:

  • Adding four additional operating rooms to the Halifax Infirmary project.

  • Adding 144 beds (four floors each with 36 beds) to the existing project.

  • Adding a new emergency department to the existing project.

  • Building a new lab at the Halifax Infirmary that would combine existing services with services presently located at the nearby MacKenzie Building. Project delivery is to be determined.

  • Building a new cyclotron at the Halifax Infirmary. Project delivery is to be determined.

More planning work happening

According to the documents, the population of Nova Scotia has surpassed the projections used in the Halifax Infirmary and Victoria General sites functional program and master program by 6.6 per cent for 2035.

"Updated population data suggests that this is a modest estimate as 2021 analysis suggests the population will increase to 1,069,732 by 2031," the documents say.

"This is a 13.5 per cent increase over the population figures used in the HI and VG sites functional program and master program."

The documents go on to say that projections show a centralization of the population to Halifax and surrounding areas, and it's expected that growth will be sustained. Further analysis is happening to update hospital service projections "pending the release of updated long-term population projections data" from the province's finance department.

Provincial government officials declined an interview request, but in a statement said they are aware of the current population trends for the province and Halifax area and some planning work has been completed taking into account the new growth projections.

"This information will be used as future plans are developed as well."

Last week, CBC reported on the deteriorating conditions of the pathology department in the MacKenzie Building and the fact it is not part of the new generation project.

A plan to replace aging infrastructure

Dr. Laurette Geldenhuys, head of pathology, told CBC that her department is plagued by floods, leaking pipes and other failing infrastructure that, along with making the workplace a challenging environment, poses potential challenges to recruitment and retention.

The QEII New Generation plan is intended to expand — and in some cases relocate — health-care services and make way for the eventual closure of the Centennial, Victoria and Dickson buildings a few blocks away from the infirmary at the Victoria General site.

Those buildings have been plagued by infrastructure deficiencies for years, including undrinkable water.

The current plan for the Halifax Infirmary calls for a new cancer unit, a new outpatient centre, 28 operating theatres (an increase of 12, nine of which are relocating from the Victoria General) and 626 in-patient beds (an increase of 180, 144 of which are relocating from the VG).

Redevelopment and expansion work is also happening at Cape Breton Regional Hospital and health-care sites in Glace Bay, New Waterford and Northside.

There are different timelines for that work, with the overall redevelopment project on Cape Breton Island expected to take six to seven years to complete at a cost of more than $1 billion.

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