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Brampton’s P3 hospital goes forward

BRAMPTON, Ont. – Construction has now begun on the long-awaited and controversial new William Osler Health Centre. Financing of $536 million has been arranged through a P3 arrangement involving public and private partners, and the site is scheduled to open July 3, 2007.

EllisDon Corp. will build and help finance the new hospital, according to the project agreement’s Public Private Partnership (P3) deal signed last August, reported the Brampton Guardian newspaper.

The construction company is one of three private companies— including Carillon Canada Inc. and The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)— that make up The Healthcare Infrastructure Company of Canada.

WOHC has already launched a massive capital campaign to raise the community’s share of 30 per cent towards the new hospital’s cost as outlined in the P3 deal. The campaign will also raise money for the redevelopment of Brampton Memorial Hospital, Etobicoke and the Georgetown facilities.

The provincial government will pay the remaining building costs for the hospital over a 25-year period, similar to a mortgage. Some adjustments were made to the final design of the new hospital, said Bob Bell, CEO of WOHC (pictured at left), to help reduce some of the “financial pressures on this project.”

Instead of three main buildings— a diagnostic treatment block, patient care tower, and an ambulatory care centre— plans now show two main structures and a parking garage will be housed on the land.

“The ambulatory centre will not be built because we have transferred that space inside the main complex,” said Bell.

“We basically reduced the amount of space that would have been dedicated to management and administration offices.”
The building will still have more than 1 million sq.-ft. of floor space and will add 608 new acute care beds to the Brampton and WOHC community inside a six-storey patient care tower.

Health Minister George Smitherman was notably absent Friday morning, however, Mayor Susan Fennell said he followed through with his promise that construction would start Oct. 22.

“We have a long way to go, this construction time table is several years off between today and (the hospital’s) opening, we will continue to struggle with the existing Brampton Memorial Hospital, which in my opinion is substantially under-funded and challenged by an aging facility,” continued Fennell.

“The minister has made a commitment that the Lynch Street site will be part of Brampton’s long-term plan and we will be looking for the funds to see that hospital is updated and modernized.”

Last month, mayor Fennell and The [Brampton] Guardian’s publisher, Ken Nugent, presented the health minister with more than 25,000 signed ballots and letters from residents demanding the new hospital be built and the existing facility redeveloped.

“This is a day I think a lot of skeptics thought would never arrive and here we are standing with machines behind us,” said the mayor. “The residents of Brampton have said very clearly we want and we need more health care services in Brampton.”

About a dozen members of the Brampton Health Coalition were also out early Friday morning protesting against the P3 financing deal. The group burned fake money with Premier Dalton McGuinty’s face on it in large bins near the construction site’s main entrance.

Dora Jeffries, a member of the local coalition fighting against the new hospital’s financing formula, called the project “a colossal waste of money” adding current research shows it will end up costing the community and the government more money in the long run.

“It’s just really unfortunate because it looks like this is going ahead. It’s great we are getting a new hospital, that is fabulous and we need it, but we would like people to realize this is not a great deal.”