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P3 hospitals and schools cloud Alberta skies

Jan 2, 2004 02:14 AM
 
The Alberta government continues to give the green light to health care privatization, but local CUPE members are mobilizing to oppose the plans. The latest P3 scheme involves a new 400-bed hospital for the southeast end of Calgary. At least three multinational consortiums are vying for the contract to build, own and run the hospital, including the Health Care Infrastructure Company of Canada, the successful bidder on two P3 hospitals in Ontario. The Madrid-based conglomerate Ferrovial-Agroman, which specializes in privatized hospitals, highways, railways and water treatment plants, is also bidding for the Calgary hospital. If all goes according to the province’s (and the privateers’) plans, the winning bid will be announced at the end of 2004, with construction to be completed by 2008. But they shouldn’t get too cocky – CUPE Alberta has won the battle for public health before, and it plans to win this fight, as well. Meanwhile, the Peace Country Health Region in Grande Prairie is also hoping to negotiate P3 deals. The board is very ambitious: it hopes to build a new hospital in Beaverlodge and replace the old High Prairie Hospital with a hospital at the High Prairie college, all with private sector money, of course. Ralph Klein’s Conservative government has eagerly sent the board all the necessary paperwork, so now all it needs is bidders. The Alberta government, having demanded that school boards also study the P3 option, is especially pleased with the progress made by the Calgary Board of Education. In December, the CBE called for “expressions of interest” from private contractors interested in rebuilding several schools. A spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure praised the CBE, saying the board has “taken a leadership role in looking for alternative ways of financing.” Despite a massive budget surplus and a bottomless treasury thanks to the province’s booming oil industry, the Klein government claims it can’t afford to rebuild schools using public money.