POLITICS

Plan to upgrade Vancouver hospital has no budget, no building date

06/13/2012 04:42 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - For the second time in two days the B.C. government has announced a major redevelopment of a hospital without a firm budget or construction schedule.

Premier Christy Clark was at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver Wednesday to say the final touches will be put on a "concept plan" to upgrade the aging hospital, paving the way for a business plan, but the paperwork won't be complete until 2014.

The project is expected to include a new tower and improvements to existing buildings, but Clark couldn't provide a comprehensive budget or construction plan, other than to say she hopes work begins by 2016.

"We're still working through the details of how it should look and how it fits into the fiscal plan," she said.

The announcement echoed one on Tuesday, in which Health Minister Mike De Jong promised planning would begin on a similar redevelopment of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

While de Jong suggested the project would cost $750 million, he also had no firm budget and no date for when construction will start.

The NDP said the Liberals are trying to score political points with the announcements and the public should be skeptical.

"They’ve been promising upgrades to hospitals like this one, like Royal Columbian and like Surrey Memorial, for years," said Opposition health critic Mike Farnworth. "British Columbians need a comprehensive plan to fix aging infrastructure, not one-off announcements made for political gain."

The NDP MLA for the riding where St. Paul's is located, Spencer-Chandra Herbert, said Providence Health Care, which controls the hospital, gave the government a concept plan for the redevelopment a year ago but nothing has been done.

"My concern...is that the Liberals are making these announcements to save their own political skin without any real plan of following through,” he said.