Nova Scotia

Health minister can’t say when Halifax Infirmary redevelopment contract will be signed

Nova Scotia Health Minister Michelle Thompson still cannot say when a contract will be signed for the most expensive infrastructure project in the province’s history.

Members of the Tory government have said they want a contract in place this summer for the redevelopment of the Halifax Infirmary, but Thompson recently told reporters negotiations are ongoing to finalize the deal with Plenary PCL Health.

“I can’t give you an exact date,” she said following a cabinet meeting last week. “I don’t anticipate it being in the next several weeks, I can tell you that.”

The minister added she cannot say with certainty that a contract will be signed before the end of summer.

Project has faced numerous delays

It’s the latest uncertainty for a project beset by delays since it was announced by the former Liberal government of Stephen McNeil.

Premier Tim Houston announced sweeping changes to the plan in late 2022 following concerns the existing design was too small to accommodate the province’s recent population boom and projected future patient needs.

Concerns also persist about how expensive the project will be, with government officials saying they will not be able to make a final price projection until contracts are signed.

One of the key changes the Tories announced in 2022 was redeveloping the hospital in chunks, meaning completed areas can open while work continues elsewhere on the property.

The first phase is expected to take at least five years and will include a new emergency department, an intensive care unit, 16 operating rooms and 216 beds.

Last year, the province announced a $254-million agreement to prepare the site for that work, an effort that was delayed by design work and only began a few months ago.

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Delays contribute to cost increases

With speculation that Houston could call an early election, Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said the Halifax Infirmary project must have finalized contracts and cost projections for the public to consider before a vote happens.

Thompson’s update on the project comes shortly after her government approved additional spending this year for the Northside health complex under construction in North Sydney.

Cabinet approved a 13 per cent increase in spending for this year, which was attributed to labour and material shortages. Thompson said that’s a reality of major construction projects, but it’s also important to get the best contracts possible to ensure cost certainty.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said those kinds of overruns are exactly why the government needs to get on with signing the contract for the Halifax Infirmary project. Delays drive up costs as much as other factors, she said.

Chender told reporters it is difficult for the public to take any number from the government at face value at this point.

“We have repeatedly talked about PC math and PC math is math that makes sense to this government at the time.”


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