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The BC health minister is pushing for a new hospital in Surrey to be a P3, even though a key committee of the region’s health authority opposed privatization.

Minutes of the Fraser Health Authority’s (FHA) facilities committee, obtained by the BC Health Coalition through freedom of information, show the committee “agreed that P3s are not the first choice of the committee.” Members concluded “a P3 strategy tends to be slower.” The authority’s facilities planning vice-president even argued that P3s bring “a lesser ability to control design, longer lead times and additional risk.”

But the health authority’s board overruled the committee, ordering more detailed study of a P3 option. The province’s health minister, George Abbott, now says he is confident the new $126-million outpatient hospital will be a P3.

The evidence against privatized hospitals sits right in the FHA’s own backyard, where the Abbotsford hospital has gone well over budget, is behind schedule and will have fewer beds as a P3.

Abbott told the media that provincial representatives “made some constructive comments,” but denied the province had pressured the authority’s board of directors.

Last fall BC premier Gordon Campbell announced all government-funded projects over $20 million must be considered as P3s and analyzed by Partnerships BC.

Health coalition co-chair Joyce Jones said the BC government is “squeezing health authorities by forcing them to balance their underfunded budget and at the same time telling them that they have to consider more costly and time-consuming P3 models.”

With files from the BC Health Coalition, Globe and Mail and Peace Arch News