Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital expansion - May 21, 2015

Mr. Silver: Yesterday the government selected a B.C. company to do the new expansion at the Whitehorse General Hospital. In 2010, the chair of the hospital board told the Legislature that the expansion project would cost — and I quote — “between $45 million and $50 million”. At that point it said it would include the laboratory, medical imaging, the emergency room and the ambulance station.

He then appeared in the Legislature in 2013, and the chair said at that time that it had risen to a $60-million range. According to the announcement yesterday, the cost of the project has now ballooned to $72 million.

Can the minister explain why the cost of this project has gone up almost 50 percent since it was first announced just four years ago?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, we’re very pleased to work with the Hospital Corporation on this expansion. This is something that Yukoners have asked for and they certainly deserve that level of care at the Whitehorse General Hospital.

As with many projects, scopes often change with work that is needed to be done, but we are looking forward to moving forward with the Hospital Corporation’s project. We know that there has been some $72 million budgeted for this multi-year project. The target completion date is 2017-18, and the Hospital Corporation has told us that the next phase of work is currently on schedule and on budget.

Mr. Silver: No mention to the fact that it has ballooned 50 percent since it was first announced.

Yukoners who have long memories will recall that the hospital was built in the 1990s under a Yukon Party government. The controversial decision at that time was to scale back the size of the facility. The chair reflected upon this and he said — and I quote: “When the existing emergency room facility was built, it was too small to handle the needs of the day then and it certainly does not meet the needs today.”

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that we need to expand the emergency room and it is unfortunate that a previous Yukon Party government didn’t build for the future growth. The expansion will mean a bigger emergency room but it will mean no new beds — at least not today.

Can the minister confirm that when the building is completed in the fall of 2017, as he mentioned, there will be no new beds?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: It’s interesting to hear the comments from the member opposite. The numbers that he’s talking about were very early estimates. Certainly scopes of projects do change as they proceed.

Yukon government has approved $72 million for the expansion of the Whitehorse General Hospital. The target completion date, as I had indicated, for the overall project is 2017-18. We’re very excited to be able to provide new services and expanded services at the hospital with this project.

Certainly we would only expect that the member opposite will be not voting in favour of this project, one that many Yukoners certainly look forward to.

Mr. Silver: Certainly we can be assured that the minister is not going to answer the question, Mr. Speaker. There’s no increase in the scope — laboratory, medical imaging, emergency room and ambulance station. It’s the same scope.

We’re getting an IOU as well from this government on new beds. Another aspect of the hospital expansion project is relocating the ambulance station from the current site by the hospital to a new building nearby on Hospital Road. This is certainly good news as the existing ambulance station is not in good shape. We know, for example, that the dispatch centre has had to be rewired this year because it was failing. We know the government built a new ambulance station at the top of Two Mile Hill, and the dispatch centre has sat empty since the building opened. I hope that this type of poor planning is not repeated at the new ambulance station that was announced yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, will the new ambulance station have a full EMS dispatch centre in it?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Really what we need to talk about here is the fact that delivering on this hospital expansion was a platform commitment by this government in our last platform back in 2011. The work, the due diligence, has been done by the Hospital Corporation. Through that work, there was a change of what the needs are with the scope of that work. That is why we are ready to move ahead.

The good news is that we have money in the bank to build this hospital. What is important to note is that the Leader of the Liberal Party opposed and voted against a hospital in his own riding in Dawson City. We know that he will vote against the hospital here in Whitehorse as well. What we do know is that the Leader of the Liberal Party is opposed to improvements in our health care system.