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Government & policy

Quebec mulls financing model for superhospitals

MONTREAL – The Quebec government is reconsidering whether to build its upcoming superhospitals as public-private partnerships, something it announced it would do three years ago.

The so-called superhospitals, one to be built by the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the other by the Centre hospitalier de l’Université
de Montréal (CHUM), are designed to supercede much of the aging infrastructure in which the hospitals currently operate.

The two projects are expected to cost $4.7 billion – about $1.6 billion more than originally forecasted. The MUHC project at the Glen Yard is expected to be completed by 2013-14 and the CHUM work by 2018.

It appears the government is now having second thoughts about running the projects as public-private partnerships. “For the government, PPPs are not a religion,” said Marie-Ève Bédard, Health Minister Yves Bolduc’s press attaché, referring to public-private partnerships.

“The PPP mode is a tool that we could use to carry out large-scale projects,” Bédard told the Montreal Gazette. “However, the economic context has evolved a lot and it’s possible that it won’t be the best option.”

Under a PPP, a private partner builds and maintains a public facility for 20 to 30 years, leasing it back to the government. The private consortium raises the funds for the project and assumes the risk of cost overruns.

But critics claim that PPPs end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more in the long run.

Two consortia are competing for the contract to build and maintain the planned hospital of the McGill University Health Centre on the site of the Glen Yard straddling Westmount and Notre Dame de Grâce.

Also, two other consortia are bidding for the contract to construct and maintain the future home of the Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal, next to St. Luc Hospital.

According to the Gazette, the four consortia are to submit their proposals to the government in the coming months. The winning bid for the MUHC project is to be chosen by December, and for the CHUM soon afterward.

In a statement, Arthur Porter, executive director of the MUHC, said committees will be spending the next few weeks evaluating the bids.

“Imagine hundreds of days of concerted effort by members of the MUHC and the two outstanding international consortia, not to mention boxes upon boxes of design and technical-specification documents for the Glen campus, and realize you would only be seeing the tip of the iceberg!” Porter said.

Posted Sept. 24/09