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Tug-of-war breaks out for Shriners Hospital

Montreal is making a bid to win back the Shriners Hospital, a children’s orthopedic facility that recently announced it would move to London, Ont.

The 75-year-old Shriners hospital had run out of space, and originally sought to move to the site of a new super-hospital in Montreal. However, after the Quebec government repeatedly delayed approval of the new facility, the Shriners sought bids from other cities – including Toronto, Ottawa and London. London subsequently won the competition.

Reports say the new hospital will cost between $50 million and $100 million.
But Montreal officials recently lobbied the Shriners, asking for another chance to keep the facility in their city.

On July 1, a delegation from the McGill University Health Centre will make a presentation to the Shriners Board of Trustees in Denver, Colo. The Shriners Imperial Sessions will be held in Denver that week.

According to a news item in the Montreal Gazette, Montreal was given a final chance after Dr. Arthur Porter, executive director of the MUHC phoned Ralph Semb, chairman of the board of the Shriners.

“If they come in with all the facts and figures, with the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, and they know where the funds are and they have them guaranteed, then I think they have a good chance,” Semb told The Gazette.

If the Montreal contingent gets the thumb’s up from the Shriners’ board, 1,200 Shriners delegates from across North America would then vote on keeping the hospital in Montreal.

For its part, Montreal contends that it has much in its favour, including a world-renowned team of orthodpedic and musculo-skeletal experts.

However, the Quebec government is still mulling over plans for the English-speaking super-hospital in Montreal, as well as those for a similar French-speaking facility.

Earlier this year, a review committee headed by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson recommended that the two sites were viable, but urged that costs be capped at $1.1 billion per facility. The projects still await Cabinet approval.

Forces in London have also been rallying to keep the new Shriners hospital on track in their city.

“All I want is an equal chance before those people who will be voting,” Tony Dagnone, president of the London Health Sciences Centre, told the London Free Press. “We have followed [the Shriners’] transparent decision-making process for four years – and the public of Montreal have to be reminded of that.”