New women's hospital on budget, but delays mean it won't open until 2019, WRHA says

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New women's hospital on budget, but delays mean it won't open until 2019, WRHA says

New women's hospital on budget, but delays mean it won't open until 2019, WRHA says

Construction on a state-of-the-art, $232.9 million hospital for new mothers and women is expected to be completed this fall but won't be up and running for another two years.

Murals hang on the walls, the water is running and there is a modern roof-top patio complete with outdoor furniture ready to use.

The facility appears to be ready to go, but most of the ceilings are open and there is still significant electrical and data system work to complete.

In a statement on Wednesday, the WRHA noted the project was originally expected to be complete by the fall of 2016 — although that isn't entirely accurate. 

In December 2010, the WRHA posted on its website that Architecture 49 (formerly Smith Carter Architects) had won an award for the building design from Canadian Architect magazine, and that the project was "set to be completed by 2014."

That didn't happen, in part, because the government of the day postponed its call for requests for building proposals until June of 2012, a WRHA spokesperson said. A contract was awarded in September of 2012, and since then the project has been interrupted by a series of infrastructure and construction-related delays.

Now, the WRHA says a significant portion of the overall construction on the new Winnipeg Women's Hospital should be completed by this fall. The facility won't, however, be operational until the fall of 2019, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority now estimates.

"While the revised timeframe is regrettable, it is necessary to deliver a completed project able to provide excellent patient care," WRHA interim president Réal Cloutier said in a statement.

The 388,000-square-foot facility, designed by Architecture 49 and Parkin Architects, is the largest and most complex capital health-care project in the province's history, Cloutier said. The WRHA says it remains on budget despite the delays.

"The facility is being built to the exacting specifications required to provide safe patient care for women, babies and their families," Cloutier said in a statement Wednesday. 

The new facility features natural light for patients, state-of-the-art diagnostic and monitoring equipment and soothing colours for expectant mothers.

The WRHA chalked up delays to a series of unforeseen events, including the collapse of shoring on Sherbrook Street in 2012 and the work that followed; a 2013 fire that burned through the Health Science Centre diagnostic centre and damaged a shared tunnel and skywalk with the women's hospital; and the completion of a second energy plant and the integration of electrical, water and sewer facilities between buildings.

The WRHA also cites an insolvency issue with an electrical subcontractor "which delayed a significant portion of key electrical work."

Despite the multi-year delay in opening, WRHA senior management say it won't cost taxpayers a dime, Cloutier told the media on a tour of the facility Wednesday.

He says the WRHA has an agreement with general contractor EllisDon that covers the delay.

"Obviously there were unforeseen delays we talked about that added to the time schedule, so we work with the contractor to make sure we are not going over budget; that we maintain the budget. If that means we have to spend a bit more time to get the project done, then we chose taking a bit more time," Cloutier says.

He says any other costs are for EllisDon to absorb.

"When we sign a contract with a general contractor to do a job, it's for a fixed price and this is a product we want," Cloutier says.

New lawsuit filed over unpaid bill

There may be peace between the WRHA and EllisDon, but a lawsuit connected to the construction of the hospital was filed two days ago.

Dustrial Plastic and Steel has sued both the health authority and EllisDon for just over $1.8 million dollars for a contract the company says was never paid.

Despite being named in the suit, Cloutier maintains the legal action doesn't involve the WRHA.

"As far as we are concerned our contract is with the general contractor. Our obligation is not with the subcontractors," Cloutier says.

Remarkably, the delay has meant no additional costs to the WRHA, despite operating out of its existing 50-year-old facility for significantly more time than anticipated and having to reschedule its move.

"The operating implication for us is not significant for us whatsoever and we manage that within our existing budgets, so there are no operating implications for us that would impacted by this delay," Cloutier told reporters.

More than 5,700 babies were delivered at the current Health Sciences Centre Women's hospital in 2016-17, with more than 5,600 delivered at St. Boniface Hospital.