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May 28, 2003

Liberals will let ROH expansion 'go ahead'
McGuinty wants hospitals to stay in public hands


Mohammed Adam
The Ottawa Citizen


Wednesday, May 28, 2003


Despite his vow to scrap public-private sector partnerships in health
care,
Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty says the Royal Ottawa Hospital's planned
$100-million expansion will go ahead.

Mr. McGuinty told the Citizen that the Liberal party understands very
well
the need for a new mental health facility in Ottawa to serve Eastern
Ontario
and would do nothing to jeopardize the project, which is to be built
using a
combination of public and private funds. He said all such projects
currently
under way in the province would not be cancelled.

However, he said a Liberal government would explore every opportunity to

return such hospitals to public hands.

"Those are projects that are important to the communities and we
recognize
the need. The projects will go ahead," he said.

"What I take issue with is the mechanism. We believe in public ownership
and
public financing (of health care). I will take these hospitals and bring

them inside the public sector."

Mr. McGuinty warned recently that if the Liberals are elected in the
provincial election now expected in the fall, they will stop private
sector
financing of hospitals, the so-called P3s, which the Conservative
government
is pushing as the way of the future.

Mr. McGuinty believes that public-private sector partnerships in health
care
would ultimately cost the province more money than traditional
arrangements.
He says such arrangements would be discontinued and the hospitals
returned
to full public ownership.

In effect, the Liberals plan to buy them back. He said, however, that a
Liberal government would not rush to end these arrangements to ensure
that
taxpayers are not saddled with heavy financial penalties.

Despite the assurances, the Liberal policy has raised concerns in
Ottawa,
where the ROH is only weeks away from announcing a private-public sector

partnership under which a developer will build a new state-of-the-art
mental
health centre and lease it back to the hospital. The ROH board has
selected
the winning consortium and approved design of the new hospital.

Still, George Langill, president and CEO of the ROH, says he prefers the
P3
approach. He says a public-private sector partnership will allow the ROH
to
save money, sidestep the need to raise its share of capital costs worth
about $20 million, and help build the hospital much more quickly.

"We have an opportunity to pioneer a new approach to capital
development. It
is a better approach than the traditional way. I am hoping that politics

isn't the reason we have to divert from this," Mr. Langill said at a
meeting
with the Citizen editorial board yesterday.

He said capital requirements for Ontario hospitals now top $8 billion
and in
an era when governments do not have billions of dollars to spare,
public-private sector partnerships offer the best hope for capital
expansion.

"No matter how well-intentioned Mr. McGuinty is to do things through the

traditional approach, there is just no money to do everything. Eight
billion
dollars is a lot of money to find without putting Ontario in a deficit,"
Mr.
Langill said.

The Conservative government announced plans for Ontario's first
privately
built and owned hospitals in Brampton and Ottawa two years ago. The $350

million William Osler Health Centre in Brampton and the new ROH would be

built by private capital and leased to the hospitals.

Private-sector investors will run everything from the physical plant to
services such as food and maintenance. The hospitals will be responsible
for
patient care.

Under the plan, a private consortium will build a new mental health
hospital
on the 10-hectare site on Carling Avenue. Other commercial development,
such
as stores, doctors' offices and possibly housing will fill the rest of
the
site.

The ROH will enter into a 66-year lease with the developer, but within
20 to
24 years, the main building would revert to ROH ownership because it
would
have been paid for. At the end of the 66 years, the entire site would be

owned by ROH.

Plans for a new mental hospital began in 1999, when a consultant
reported
that renovating the existing hospital would cost $115 million.
Renovations
would take about seven years and future maintenance costs would remain
high.
But with a new hospital costing $100 million, the hospital took that
option.

Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen