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Cost overrun issue at super-hospitals raised in Montreal

The Quebec government has told executives who are planning Montreal’s two upcoming superhospitals that they must downscale their projects because of projected cost overruns of more than $1 billion.

According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, the government believes the McGill University Health Centre could exceed its $1.1 billion budget by as much as $800 million

Cost overruns at the Centre hospitalier de l’universite de Montreal (CHUM) were estimated at several hundred million dollars.

Both teaching hospitals have until February or March to submit their revised plans, the government appointee in charge of overseeing the projects told The Gazette. “We have three or four months to ‘right-size’ the projects – not downsize them,” said Clermont Gignac, a former Bombardier executive. “This makes it a more positive approach. We want to take into account the capacity of taxpayers.”

Gignac was hired by Health Minister Philippe Couillard in June to oversee the projects. His job is to keep a lid on costs and avoid duplication of services between the two superhospitals.

For its part, however, the McGill University Health Centre has vigorously denied that it faces cost overruns. Executives at the organization responded that they have recently constructed projects on time and on budget.

Arthur Porter, executive director of the MUHC, said: “We will be on $1.1 billion on this project, and we will not be asking the government for a nickel more.”

However, he said the MUHC is now considering cutting some of its medical services to meet the construction budget. For example, colonoscopies and endoscopies might no longer be performed at the superhospital.

Under the MUHC project, the Montreal General Hospital will be expanded and a new complex will be built at the old Glen railway yards. The Montreal Children’s Hospital will move to that site.

Adult pavilions and research facilities also will be constructed at the Glen to replace the Royal Victoria and Montreal Chest hospitals. The Montreal Neurological Hospital will remain at its current address on University Street.

The total cost of the redevelopment is $1.1 billion, with the province contributing $800 million and Ottawa $100 million. The MUHC will have to raise $200 million from the public and the corporate sector.