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HSC expansions face delays, cost overruns

HSC WinnipegWINNIPEG – A $61-million addition to Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre is $14 million over budget and won’t be completed until 2019, five years after its original due date.

When the Diagnostic Centre of Excellence’s construction was first announced in 2011, then-health minister Theresa Oswald hailed it as “an exciting new facility [that] will improve patient care and help reduce wait times for Manitobans.”

The project was estimated to be completed by 2014, but a fire in 2013, delays in the construction of the Women’s Hospital, and the complexity of integrating the new building with existing operational buildings added “unexpected delays and costs,” said Bronwyn Penner-Holigroski, a spokesperson for the WRHA.

CBC News reported the estimated cost has risen to $75 million due to “unforeseen project issues” and costs for unfunded equipment.

In a written statement, Penner-Holigroski said the WRHA is working with Manitoba Health to “address the outstanding items we expect will take us over that [originally budgeted] amount.”

She attributed some of the budget increase to the change to the PST. The fire and subsequent water damage added $2.4 million to the budget and the WRHA says a further $8 million is needed for unfunded equipment.

The 91,000 sq. ft. diagnostic imaging centre was originally to house:
• A pediatric MRI
• A pediatric CT scanner
• Two pediatric digital radiography suites (general X-ray room)
• Several angiography suites
• Shared adult/pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab)
• Pediatric ultrasound, fluoroscopy and radiology imaging programs

The first level of the building is operational, with the MRI, CT and radiography suites opening in 2017.

The previously announced peripheral angiography suite – which captures images of peripheral arteries in the lower abdomen, kidneys, arms, legs and feet – is now in limbo. As are the specialized vascular and neuroangiography units.

“[The] WRHA is working in collaboration with Manitoba Health to determine how best to continue to offer angiography services going forward and where that will take place,” said Penner-Holigroski in a written statement.

A similar response was given when CBC asked about the status of the planned adult/pediatric cath lab.

“[The] WRHA is working in collaboration with Manitoba Health to determine how best to continue to offer cardiac catheterization services throughout the region going forward,” she said.

The wait for a non-urgent angiogram is 28 weeks.

Penner-Holigroski said some of the equipment and installation for the planned suites in levels two and three still has to go to tender. She did not specify what equipment will be in the suites, but said it would have “different equipment and design specifications than in the original tender.”

Pediatric ultrasound, fluoroscopy and radiology imaging programs were set to open on the second level on Jan. 9.

The rooftop heliport used by air ambulances such as STARS opened in 2016.

The news comes on the heels of the WRHA’s announcement that the Women’s Hospital at HSC is also delayed.

It announced late last year the $232.9 million hospital for new mothers and women, expected to be completed in 2016, won’t be up and running until the fall of 2019.

The NDP’s health critic, Andrew Swan, is unsure where things went awry with the timing of the project. Swan said, when his party was defeated in the 2016 election, the project was still on track to be completed by the end of the year.

His concern is that, in an effort to find savings, the current government is forcing artificial delays and stalling on funding the purchase of new equipment.

“We are suspicious and I think most Manitobans are suspicious,” Swan said. “Certainly we are concerned that equipment that could save the lives of children is now going to be put on the back burner because of this government’s commitment to cutting costs.”

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