Government officials ruminate on rising QEII expansion cost estimates

Government officials did not provide answers Wednesday about cost overruns for the Halifax Infirmary redevelopment project.

“I don’t have a specific number,” Karen Oldfield, acting CEO and president of Nova Scotia Health, told Liberal MP Brendan Maguire during questioning at a meeting of the state’s public accounts standing committee. Legislative Assembly.

“We have hard numbers and I’m not in a position to speak to rough estimates,” Oldfield said.

The cost of the project was originally expected to be around $2 billion, but recent speculation has it that the cost will exceed $3 billion. Maguire wanted to know if the project was over budget.

“As far as the budget is concerned, we follow the numbers throughout the process,” said Gerard Jessome, general manager of engineering and construction infrastructure in the public works department.

“I think we started tracking numbers early in the planning process and those numbers are internal numbers and we use those numbers when we get a financial bid from the developer (development company) to make sure we get a good value for Nova Scotians and good value for the taxpayer.

Maguire asked for a cost range for the project.

“We are in a procurement process and there is an integrity that we need to maintain throughout this procurement process and there is confidentiality between us and the developer with whom we are currently negotiating to obtain a financial bid” , said Jessome. “These practices are used across the country, are used in other jurisdictions. …Information will be released once we have received a financial submission.

Karen Oldfield, acting CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, takes part in a press conference at One Government Place in Halifax on September 1, 2021. — Communications Nova Scotia

Maguire said releasing an extended number would not affect the bidding process and lobbied Oldfield to release the number.

“I’m sorry, Mr Maguire, I’m not in a position to share that number and I would just say that over time the numbers, the precise numbers will come out,” Oldfield said. “There is nothing sinister going on here. We are in a procurement process.

The meeting focused on Auditor General Kim Adair’s April report on recommendations that had not been followed up by a 2019 audit report on the QEII next-generation project, namely the expansion of the Halifax infirmary and the community ambulatory care center in Bayers Lake, and the 2017 audit report on the management of personal assistance contracts in nursing homes and at home.

Jessome started the meeting with an update on the two-pronged QEII project.

“In 2020, EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare was awarded the contract to design, build, finance and maintain the new community ambulatory care center in Bayers Lake,” Jessome said. “The construction of the project is currently underway and progressing well.

The Halifax Infirmary on Summer Street, seen on May 17, 2021. - Eric Wynne
The Halifax Infirmary on Summer Street, seen on May 17, 2021. – Eric Wynne

“The Halifax Infirmary expansion project includes the construction of a new inpatient tower with operating rooms, a combined cancer and ambulatory care building, an innovation center and learning space, a research space and a new car park with a power plant.

Jessome said EllisDon qualified to bid on the infirmary project in 2019, but made the decision in June to no longer participate in that procurement process.

“The province remains committed to the procurement process and has moved forward with the remaining bidder,” Jessome said.

The submission deadline is set for Oct. 27, he said.

“Once we have reviewed the submission, completed negotiations and financially closed the project, we will provide an update,” he said.

Jessome said the project team had completed the majority of the 2019 audit recommendations and the only outstanding items depended on project closure.

Oldfield said the genesis of the QEII project is to replace the old Victoria General Hospital.

“If you’ve been to Victoria General Hospital, especially the upper floors, you’ll know the infrastructure has been stretched and seen better days,” she said. “Victoria General Hospital has 16 operating rooms and performs almost 25% of the surgeries that take place in this province. Even if we started construction tomorrow, there would be a very long period to reach a final state.

“The fact is that the Victoria General Hospital’s operating theaters and other basic services in this hospital either need to find a new home in the short to medium term, or they need to be strengthened. This is the genesis of Bayers Lake, for the works that have been undertaken in and around Dartmouth General, including Hants.

Brendan Maguire, Liberal MP for Halifax Atlantic, in the Legislative Assembly for the November 2021 fall sitting. - Francis Campbell photo
Brendan Maguire, Liberal MP for Halifax Atlantic, in the Legislative Assembly for the November 2021 fall sitting. – Francis Campbell photo

Time is a very important element in the project, Oldfield said.

“Nova Scotians shouldn’t wait forever for things to happen.

Oldfield was also asked to provide information on her ongoing role within the health authority and overall leadership structure.

A day after being sworn in as prime minister, Tim Houston and his PC government on September 1 fired the entire health authority board and removed Dr. Brendan Carr as CEO.

Houston appointed a four-person leadership team to lead health care, installing Oldfield as interim CEO, Janet Davidson as authority administrator, Jeannine Lagasse as deputy minister of the Department of Health. health and Dr. Kevin Orrell as CEO of the new Office of Health. Recruitment of health professionals.

Orrell left that position in July and was later named Special Advisor to the President of Cape Breton University.

Dr. Nicole Boutilier, Vice President of Medicine for Nova Scotia Health, and Craig Beaton, Associate Deputy Minister for the Department of Health, are now responsible for the healthcare recruiting office.

Oldfield said on Wednesday she was still acting CEO of the health authority at the whim of the health minister and the premier.

“They asked me to serve, I’m serving, time to be determined,” she said.

Oldfield said the health leadership team still consists of the four people named in September — Davidson, Lagasse, herself and Orrell.

She said the installation of a new council is regularly discussed.

“I don’t have a deadline,” Oldfield said. “I expect that at some point there will be a change in the governance of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Regarding the 2017 audit report on the management of care support contracts, Tracey Barbrick, Associate Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Seniors and Long-Term Care, said the major challenge was to address the shortage of CCA (continuing care assistance) in long term care and home care.

“We were in desperate shape to fill a lot of vacancies,” Barbrick said. “We have done a lot of things lately. One was wages, with a 23% increase for anyone already at the top of their pay scale. It’s a huge impact on people’s lives and we brought back a lot of people who had left for other jobs. It’s hard work, CCAs work hard, anyone in continuing care works hard.

Barbrick said wages and hires helped reduce the waiting list for home care from 1,500 people a year ago to 738 on Tuesday.

“Some of those 738s would receive some care, but not all the care they need and some would receive direct benefits in the interim.”

The ministry is also investing in an aggressive recruitment strategy for continuing care aides that focuses on both local and out-of-province recruitment.

“Over the next two years, we hope to welcome over 2,000 VACs to the continuing care sector in Nova Scotia,” Barbrick said.

She said the newly formed ministry has accepted all of the Auditor General’s recommendations and a lot of work has already been done.

“The department has implemented five of the recommendations, two of which are still ongoing. These two elements both concern the monitoring and verification of information from our partners across the province. It is important that complaints and issues are properly tracked and shared between the ministry and the health authority, and that data reported by publicly funded home care providers can be verified on a consistent basis.

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