© Star photo by Gary Kean
Premier Tom Marshall, centre, is flanked by cabinet members, from left, Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien, Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis and Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Kent, during a press conference in Corner Brook Friday morning.
If there was much talk about the plans for the new regional hospital in Corner Brook during this past week’s cabinet meetings, it’s tough to say if anything has changed.
The plans for the new hospital have been under fire in the public domain in the last two years.
Critics have charged government has scaled down the project, that it’s tardy in being constructed and that it should have new medical services such as radiation therapy and a PET scanner.
Premier Tom Marshall once said he would not retire from politics until there was actual steel in the ground for the new hospital. That was before becoming premier was thrust upon him after the unexpected resignation of Kathy Dunderdale earlier this year.
Her resignation means an earlier general election than the one that had been scheduled for the fall of 2015 and which Marshall said he will not be running in.
Asked about the hospital during a press conference following cabinet meetings in Corner Brook Friday morning, Marshall said the plans are forging ahead. He could not say what will be in the upcoming budget for the hospital specifically, other than that the province has committed to $607 million in its fiscal forecast for the project in the years to come.
“I’m confident there will be some work done (this coming year) and the process will be expedited,” Marshall said.
The provincial government is currently awaiting submissions on a tender for the design-build of the facility. This process, by which the bidder submits the design it wants to build — as opposed to the former method of contractors bidding on a specified design, should make the project go ahead more quickly.
“We will accept the best three proposals and then we will analyze the best three and one will be selected,” said Marshall.
As for the things like radiation therapy and a PET scanner, Marshall said government continues to look into those services. That investigation includes determining if the medical professionals required to provide such services are even available to come to western Newfoundland to work.
As for the PET scanner, it may not be an urgent need just yet, said the premier, even though it could possibly become more of a priority in the not too distant future.
Marshall said government is listening to what people are saying, but it has to rely on the advice of medical experts.
“Over the next eight years, there are going to be more (developments in medical technology), so I want to make sure we have room for expansion,” said Marshall.
That’s why the design will involve a campus-style setup that will allow for additional buildings if needed later on, he noted.
“There will be four or five buildings to start. but that will grow,” said Marshall. “The beauty of the site here is we have lots of room for expansion.”