As part of its program to slow the pace of Manitoba's growing debt, the Conservative government announced in early February its decision to cut over $1-billion in new health care projects pledged by the previous NDP government.
The major casualty in the purge was a new $300-million CancerCare Manitoba Centre. Also cancelled were several new clinics and a personal care home.
"The previous administration committed to many projects in late 2015 and early 2016 despite knowing the government's limited ability to pay for either their construction or the operating budgets required to provide services at these new sites," said Health Seniors and Active Living Minister Kelvin Goertzen in a press release.
"This failure to plan has left our government with some very hard decisions to make about projects that were committed to, but not budgeted for, by the previous government. While we are taking necessary steps to ensure the sustainability of our health care system today and into the future, we understand this will be disappointing news."
At about the same time as the latter announcement, Goertzen announced the approval of 95 health care projects across the province.
"Replacement equipment, repairs to existing facilities and upgrades to safety and security are necessary if we are to avoid the deterioration of buildings and other infrastructure within our health care system," said Goertzen. "As a first priority, we must ensure that our health care facilities continue to meet provincial, national and international standards."
One of the projects that fits the bill and has been approved is a $23-million redevelopment and expansion of the emergency department at the Dauphin Regional Health Centre. Dauphin is a community of about 8,500 located around 600 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
"We have already tendered the contract and we expect that construction will begin in May," reported Brian Schoonbaert, vice-president of finance, capital and support services for Prairie Mountain Health.
Horizon Builders Ltd., based in Brandon with a satellite office in Dauphin, has been awarded the contract, he notes. Horizon Builders has worked on a number of commercial and institutional projects throughout western and northern Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan.
Schoonbaert reported that the current emergency department and special care unit was built in 1985. The project will include a 1,300-square-foot addition as well as renovations to the existing area.
"Our new emergency department will be at least three times the size of what we have now," Schoonbaert said. "Our current ER is grossly undersized. This expansion will be a real benefit to both our patients and our staff."
He notes the major challenge involved in the project is working in a very tight space.
"Access to the ER will be affected," he said. "While construction is taking place we will be opening a temporary main entrance at the back — except for ambulances — with a temporary emergency department on the main floor of the building next to the existing main entrance and emergency department."
The project also includes an enclosed ambulance garage, a resuscitation/trauma care room, treatment, exam and observation rooms, a decontamination room, a special care unit for extended emergency care of patients and a new main entry to the health centre, including a driveway.
Schoonbaert reported the construction component is priced at $17.9 million with the remainder of the funding paying for new equipment and furnishings, financing, consultants and other ancillary costs.
The project is scheduled to be completed by late 2018 or early 2019.