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Provincial P3 requirements are holding up plans to modernize and expand the Hotel-Dieu hospital in Quebec City, and will likely add to costs.

The Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec (CHUQ) must submit its plans to the provincial P3 agency for review.

If the agency decides the $500 million project shouldn’t be a P3 – a process which could take many months - the delays will end there. This mandatory review will mean a significant cost increase. Hospital management was counting on project approval before the end of 2007, so that the project could be completed in 2012. That date is now in question, despite the urgency of the work that’s needed.

CUPE represents workers at the hospital, and is speaking up.

If the provincial P3 agency decides part of the work can be done as a public private partnership, we had better prepare ourselves for significant delays and skyrocketing costs. The request for qualifications process and P3 contract negotiations are costly and lengthy. All the while, the project costs will increase and the bills will pile up,” says CUPE representative Jocelyn Tremblay.

Tremblay points to the P3 contract negotiations for Highway 25 near Montreal, which took two years and cost between $5 and $10 million dollars. Contracts for two Montreal P3 hospitals have still not been awarded.

The never-ending story of Montreal’s CHUM has many lessons for Quebec. We can safely bet that corporations will only be interested in the expansion, and will turn up their noses at the main goal of the project – modernizing the hospital – because this is too risky for profit. That’s exactly what’s happening in Montreal, where the St-Luc hospital is being renovated as a public project, while the rest of the CHUM expansion will be a P3,” says CUPE representative Roberto Fortin, who specializes in P3 issues.

Just last week, hospital authorities learned that the private consortium – not Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal management – would select the architects to design the new facility.

This is just the latest drawback. Add the higher costs of private financing and the need for the private partner to make a profit – two factors that will raise the price tag even more for taxpayers – at the expense of clinical services.

For all these reasons, the Quebec government should immediately stop imposing its expensive, ideologically-driven agenda on the CHUQ administrative council, and let the council have free rein to pursue a traditional public project,” added Fortin.