There's no going back on McGill's new hospital


"The train has left the station and we've cut the brake cable."
That's how Dr. Arthur Porter, executive director of the McGill University Health Centre, described what's happening with the much-talked-about, long-awaited but just-about-given-up-on new medical centre, now that the MUHC has signed formal requests for proposals with two international consortia.
In other words, it's too late for anyone to pull out without incurring massive legal costs. The Glen campus with its new acute-care hospital, pediatric hospitals and research centre, will be built.

In a meeting with The Gazette's editorial board yesterday, Porter exuded relief. The $1.1-billion project had over the years degenerated into the status of an urban legend. Even newly minted doctors joked they would be retired before the first concrete block was laid at the Glen site on the border of Westmount and Notre Dame de Grâce.
Montrealers, wherever they live and whatever language they speak, should be glad. This project - do we still need to say it's a bilingual medical centre, not an English-language hospital? - is necessary and long overdue.
The hospitals that the Glen campus will replace include not only the aging Children's, but also the Royal Victoria, a 19th-century building that cannot be renovated to meet the standards of 21st-century medical care.
The Glen centre will be built in a public private partnership, a so-called P3 project. The second site of the MUHC's overhaul is a straightforward, government-funded and managed project. The "mountain campus," as it is called, is essentially a renovation project. Existing facilities, including the Montreal General Hospital and the Neurological Institute and Hospital will be revamped to accommodate trauma, neurological care and orthopedics.
The first generation of P3 projects - mainly carried out in Europe and Britain - were criticized for sacrificing quality for speed. Porter insisted, however, that the structure of the MUHC's P3 project means builders have every incentive to build well. They won't be paid if they don't. Payments are stretched over 34 years on an annual basis - and will be made only if the building and its maintenance meet specific standards over the lifetime of the contract. The construction risks are therefore transferred in the main to the contractor, said Porter.
The combined campuses, when finished, will have a total of 832 beds, 154 of them for pediatric care. A number of things need to happen for those numbers to work, said Porter, including finding solutions to long-term-care patients.
But that's for tomorrow. Today, there's cause for celebration. The new hospital will be built, for real.

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