CORNER BROOK — Despite concerns, the provincial government insists a new regional hospital will be built in Corner Brook — eventually.
Susan Sullivan, minister of Health and Community Services, confirmed Tuesday the provincial government awarded a contract in October to Stantec, an engineering and project management company, to review and refine the master plan for the project.
The news comes as concerns mount about the future of the hospital, which was announced in 2011 and slated to be completed by 2016.
Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce has hounded the provincial government in the House of Assembly about the seemingly stagnated project of late, and Corner Brook city council recently drafted a letter requesting an updated timeline from Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
Sullivan said officials from Stantec were in the city for three days last week meeting with members of her department, as well as some of the executive and regional heads at Western Health.
During the visit, the company looked at the work which has been done: about $20 million worth of water and sewer work and landscaping on the site at the intersection of Cpl. Pinksen Memorial Drive and the Lewin Parkway. Stantec also reviewed the current master plan.
The group also toured the facilities at Western Health to assess the condition of the buildings to determine if they might be used to provide medical services in the future.
Among the things being reviewed, Sullivan said, are bed and building model projections, as well as the current and future demographics in the region.
Another meeting between the company and government is expected once Stantec presents its report, which according to Sullivan, is expected early in the new year.
She said while it won’t be known what changes are made to the master plan until the report is filed, the meetings seem to have created a renewed sense of momentum in the project among the Progressive Conservative government.
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“From the reports I had from my officials, these were very, very productive and successful meetings,” Sullivan told The Western Star Tuesday.
With an aging demographic and the increasing prevalence of chronic disease, she said the government’s goal remains to build the appropriate hospital with the proper resources for the region.
“We want to make sure that it is the right size and the right fit,” she said. “This is a mammoth undertaking and we really need to get it right.
“When we looked at that original plan, we didn’t feel it met the needs of the western region. That’s why we sort of stopped, took a good look at where we were and said we need to reset here. So that’s what we’ve done with Stantec.”
Sullivan said while a timeline for completion won’t be known until Stantec’s report is finished, she wouldn’t characterize the current re-evaluation as evidence the hospital is being downsized.
“It’s not downsizing, it’s right-sizing,” she said, noting the design phase is a complex, technical process. “In doing that we need to take the time to do the proper investigation. It’s about getting it right to ensure we’re providing the best possible health care we can.”
As for the price, Sullivan said her department is “nowhere close” to estimating project costs, but will do so once the Department of Transportation and Works has the chance to review the latest design for the hospital.