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Construction starts on McGill super-hospital

MONTREAL – After years of planning, setbacks and delays, the McGill University Health Centre has finally broken ground on its new site – the so-called ‘super-hospital’ that will consolidate several aged facilities into one advanced centre.

“We have bought into a package. That is perhaps the strongest reason why this will be completed on time and on budget,” said Dr. Arthur Porter (pictured), the MUHC’s executive director, at an April 1 ceremony to officially launch construction of the facility. “The shovel goes into the ground and we are on track.”

The package that McGill has bought into is a $1.3-billion public-private partnership venture to be built by the McGill Health Infrastructure Group, a consortium headed by the Quebec-based engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin. The scheduled date for completion is 2014.

The new hospital will bring together the present-day Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Montreal Chest Institute. It will also include a cancer centre and a research institute.

Money will also be spent on refurbishing the Montreal General and Lachine hospitals.

The new 3.2-million-square-foot hospital will provide 346 single-patient rooms for adults and 154 for children, increased space for mobile equipment to allow many procedures in patients’ rooms, separate elevators for patients, a fibre-optic network for clinical information, and facilities for co-operation between healthcare providers and researchers that is expected to foster innovations in patient care and cures.

“This is a historic occasion,” MUHC board chairperson David Angus said. “A great, exciting day for the province, the city and the university. A great day for all Quebecers who will benefit from the health services of this great hospital.”

Premier Jean Charest, who was on hand along with provincial Health Minister Yves Bolduc and Mayor Gérald Tremblay, said the McGill project, along with its Université de Montréal counterpart, for which ground was turned the week before, will enhance Montreal’s reputation as one of the world’s great cities for health care and health sciences.

“Along with ensuring Quebec’s metropolis of the highest quality health service, these major building initiatives will vigorously support the economy and employment,” Charest said.

Tremblay called it “a dream become a reality.”

A planned ceremonial groundbreaking was cancelled when about 50 demonstrators thronged into the site to protest the public-private construction scheme and the anglophone dimension of the new hospital. Dignitaries had to content themselves with gathering around a large cake in the shape of a shovel at a nearby arts centre, where the ceremony was held.

Charest and others stressed that the new facility will not be an English hospital, but will accommodate all Quebecers. Contrary to what some critics maintain, Montreal needs both the McGill and the U de M hospitals, the premier said.
Government Administration Minister Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, who was also on hand, said the PPP formula, whereby a private consortium will build the hospital and maintain it for 30 years, ensures the project will be completed on time and on budget.

“In this way, the government ensures itself of an infrastructure in good condition for the next 30 years, and that the taxpayers get value for their money when they invest in such projects.”

The original projected date for completion of the McGill project was 2004, but Charest said such complex projects typically run into snags; he cited the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, which took 15 years to complete.

Posted April 8, 2010