In a bid to promote the cost efficiency of public-private partnerships, the Campbell government agency responsible for such arrangements has implicated the Premier’s deputy minister Brenda Eaton by making a questionable claim of a huge public hospital construction cost overrun in Victoria.
Examples of such overspending cited in a lengthy Vancouver Sun article are based on Partnerships BC claims that the last two major health care capital projects in B.C. were grossly over budget - by as much as 47 per cent in the case of Royal Jubilee Hospital’s new Diagnostic and Treatment building.
But evidence gathered by the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) shows that Partnerships BC’s claims of public overspending are inaccurate. And by targeting the Royal Jubilee project, the government agency has directly implicated Eaton.
As vice-president, operations and support for the old Capital Health Region for four years prior to her current post as a senior advisor to the Premier, Eaton’s responsibilities for strategic planning, resource allocation and finance included a key role in the Diagnostic and Treatment building project.
Under her watch, project costs rose from $92 million to $123 million. But the Vancouver Island Health Authority says the higher costs resulted from legitimate factors such as soil contamination and utility problems in the site preparation stage, and the expansion of the project scope to include added services not contained in the original plans. Each increase in costs was properly approved, VIHA says.
The second example - the Kitimat Hospital and Health Centre - was 43 per cent over budget according to Partnerships BC. But the Northern Health Authority says the construction certificate signed off by the province pegged project costs at about $38 million. In fact, says the NHA, the project was under budget.
“In their zeal to justify the sizable financial risks associated with controversial P3 projects like the Abbotsford private hospital, Partnerships BC has grossly misrepresented the costs associated with publicly financed and managed hospital projects,” says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic.
“They’ve also taken an unfair shot at local health authorities who by all indications did a good job in managing these projects and proved that the public sector can come in on budget,” she says.
Contact: Mike Old, HEU communications officer 604-828-6771