Tuesday’s announcement that the province hopes to break ground on the expansion of the Victoria Hospital by next year was welcomed by local leaders as welcome news heralding future growth for the city.
“I’m very happy. That’s great for our recovery program. It’s going to get people back to work. There are so many great things about it,” said Mayor Greg Dionne.
He was also pleased with the company chosen to lead the redevelopment process, Stantec.
“They’ve done lots of work (in Saskatchewan),” Dionne said.
The province said Tuesday Stantec would be responsible for the technical advisory work, and to lead the design of the hospital’s expansion and renewal.
The company’s Saskatchewan team, with offices in Regina and Saskatoon, will develop the hospital’s specifications, including validating program requirements, refining cost estimates and preparing the design, construction and clinical specifications.
Principal Senior Architect Jeff Juryzniec said the Prince Albert project was one Stantec was “very eager to go after.
“It’s going to set us up to be involved for the next few years here with one of the more exciting projects the province will hear about for the next little while.”
Juryzniec said that Stantec has “hit the ground running,” reviewing the existing functional program review and all the other work that has gone into the project for the last ten years. They’re also working hard to understand the government and SHA’s current parameters and what that might mean for the financial impact on the project.
“We’ll continue moving down the road until we have a clearly defined project and will be moving forward through the summer and into the fall getting our preliminary work done that will inform the next phase of the project,” he said.
The province is hoping to be able to put out a tender for a design and build team in late 2021, with shovels hitting the ground in late 2022.
For Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, the announcement of a tentative construction timeframe is the next step in an issue he’s been pushing for since being elected to government eight years ago.
“It’s a massive project and it’s wonderful that this is finally moving ahead with a good, well-regarded firm for getting projects done and getting them done well,” he said.
The hospital is one of the reasons I ran in the first place. We needed a newer hospital. I’m so happy this is finally happening. What will really make me happy is when the construction ends and we can use the facility.”
That date is years away. First the new tower has to be built, and then once the new space comes online, the province will have room to start major renovations of the existing building.
“It’s going to create lots of jobs, lots of employment out there during construction, and then it will have lots more jobs there when it’s all done. We’re going to have expanded facilities, bigger everything. There are going to be a lot more nurses, lots more lab techs, bigger everything.”
The hospital expansion was originally announced in February 2020, and is estimated to cost more than $300 million to build. It is expected to include an increase in acute care beds by about 40 per cent with bigger emergency spaces, a new adult mental health unit, expanded imagine including an MRI and a rooftop helicopter pad.
Construction of the facility is to be fully funded by the province, a commitment made by now-premier Scott Moe when he ran for party leadership in 2017.
The opposition NDP, though, has criticized the project moving forward as an expansion, and not a new build as initially promised.
“We have been consistent from the beginning that this hospital should be a new build,” said NDP health critic Vicki Mowat.
“that’s something that sticks out to me. There is a great need for Prince Alber and the surrounding community that it serves.”
The NDP also raised concerns about how the project is moving forward. Previous projects, the opposition says, have seen contracts and work go to out-of-province companies. They have long called for stronger protections for Saskatchewan companies and workers.
‘We are firm in the belief that when we are building public facilities we should do so with our companies and our workers,” Mowat said.
“We have seen a number of concerns raised with the Saskatchewan Hospital build and we have 23,000 people out of work in this province. We need to be ensuring that our community benefits from these programs as well. It’s one thing to make sure there’s a renovation, it’s another piece to make sure that our workers are involved in this process.”
From its perspective, Stantec wouldn’t comment on how the project will move forward and who could be selected to design and build the facility. They said, though, that more frequently government contracts have been including clauses aimed at maximizing the number of Saskatchewan companies and workers on a particular project.
Hargrave said the province has to abide by interprovincial free trade agreements, but that he expects a lot of good Saskatchewan companies will bid on the work.
“There are going to be a lot of Saskatchewan people and Prince Albert people who will get to work on this project.”
Those jobs, he said, will be for a few years given the scope of the project. The economic benefits aren’t the best part of the project he said — the focus is on improving health care services — but they’re a positive spinoff.
“These are very well-paying jobs coming into our city. We bring a bunch of jobs into our city, it leads to more housing and more facilities and more economic activity.”
Some of those jobs will be at the Stantec offices, where Juryzniec said a “strong, local group of folks are excited to be involved in something as exciting and long overdue as this is.”