CORNER BROOK — If Corner Brook Coun. Leo Bruce has his way, the city should soon get an update from the provincial government about the status of the proposed new regional hospital.
Bruce put forward a motion during Monday’s regular council meeting to have the city submit a written request to Premier Kathy Dunderdale regarding an update on the project, which was announced in 2007 when the provincial government committed to building the facility.
A site near the top of Wheeler’s Road has since been selected and by 2010 much of the functional plan for the project was completed, as was road and sewer work around the site. However, progress seems to have stalled with the province committing just $1 million dollars to the project in its 2012 budget.
The motion to send a letter was passed by council and Mayor Neville Greeley agreed to send the letter to the premier.
Bruce said the public seems to be discouraged by the apparent lack of progress and many are questioning whether the hospital will be built in time for its looming 2016 original completion date.
“This was announced five years ago and last year there was only $1 million announced in engineering,” Bruce said Monday. “The only thing that’s changed in five years is that Western Memorial Regional Hospital is five years older. Five years ago it was deemed to be replaced and here we are still with nothing done other than some ground work.”
Now that the House of Assembly has reopened, he said he’s hopeful Dunderdale will be able to provide an updated timeline on the project and how government plans to bring the hospital in on budget.
For his part, Bruce said members of council met with the premier in the city over the summer, a meeting during which Dunderdale expressed concerns about the cost of the project.
“She point-blank told us as long as the new hospital’s numbers were coming in at $600M or $700M, they would not build it,” he said.
Bruce said the city had similar problems with its new water treatment plant, a project which was severely over budget until the city implemented a design-build delivery method which helped save $15 million dollars from the previous estimates from the Public Tendering Act.
According to Bruce, a similar plan — which he calls “outside-the-box” — could work in the case of the regional hospital.
“I encourage the province to do the same ... it worked for us,” he said. “I realize that’s a huge amount of money, but in saying that I have no problem ... supporting a new hospital at any cost in Corner Brook. Here’s an opportunity for the west coast of Newfoundland to achieve something that’s long overdue.”
Bruce isn’t the first local politician to question the timeline of the project.
In a Western Star story from May, Liberal MHA for the Bay of Islands Eddie Joyce questioned whether the project had been pushed behind at the expense of funding devoted to the proposed development at Muskrat Falls.