05/14/2014 11:23 EDT | Updated 07/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia approves $7 million in design work for two Halifax hospitals

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia will spend $7 million on design work to upgrade two Halifax hospitals as part of a project the health minister says could be the department's biggest facility fix over the next half century.

Health Minister Leo Glavine joined Premier Stephen McNeil on Wednesday to announce the second stage of design work on the Dartmouth General Hospital and the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

The $5.25 million in provincial money and $1.75 million from two hospital charities will pay for design and planning of the fifth floor of the Dartmouth General Hospital and a new tower that contains eight new operating rooms. It also covers detailed design for renovations and an operating tower at the Halifax Infirmary.

Glavine said figures have yet to be worked out on the eventual construction costs but they will require a large outlay of provincial money and a fresh fundraising campaign by the two hospital foundations.

"As you know this is a costly endeavour," he said. "This could be the biggest health facility project for the next 50 or 60 years."

The province has been struggling to keep up with maintenance costs in the hospital system.

In November 2012, the provincial auditor general released a report that estimated the Health Department needed to commit $600 million over the next decade "for the most basic infrastructure needs in order to maintain the system as it now exists."

Glavine said the plan is to have 50 more in-patient beds and a surgical tower at the Dartmouth General. The upgrade of the Halifax Infirmary site is part of a planned shift of beds and surgeries away from the aging Victoria General building to the infirmary's more modern buildings.

Paula Bond, the vice president of acute care at the Capital District Health Authority, said the designs will be tailored to decisions on the types of surgeries each of the hospitals will offer.

"This is really getting into what (surgeries) we are going to deliver and what supports do we need to deliver them," she said.

A request for proposals for design will be issued this fall, and Glavine estimated it will take 18 months to complete designs.

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