It has to be the quietest $150-million project in recent Nova Scotia history. For more than two years, work crews have been transforming Dartmouth General Hospital to take on some of the health-care work now done at the old Victoria General Hospital site in south-end Halifax.
There’s a new entrance, two floors were renovated in 2017 and in September, a new three-floor addition will open.
The new wing is at the back of the building, which might account partly for the stealthy nature of the project. The construction is hard to see from Dartmouth’s Pleasant Street, the busy road streaming past the front of the hospital.
It’s part of the overall QEII redevelopment. Eventually, the Victoria, Centennial and Dixon buildings at the site will close, but the province sensibly decided not to just rebuild a huge hospital complex in the south end to replace the VG.
Instead, the work will disperse to several sites. For instance, the cancer care centre now housed in the Dixon building will move to a new facility at the Infirmary site in central Halifax. Other expansions are in the works for the Infirmary itself. A new outpatient centre is under development in Bayers Lake. Windsor’s hospital will expand to allow more surgeries there.
The Dartmouth General expansion will double the number of operating rooms from four to eight. The new outpatient clinic will double from nine to 18 clinic rooms. There will be almost 50 more inpatient beds and hospital staff will increase from 950 to somewhere between 1,050 and 1,250.
Two of the new ORs will be dedicated to orthopedic surgery, and this will help establish the new Fred Smithers Centre for Orthopedic Care, which should reduce waiting lists for things like knee and hip replacements. Smithers, the founder of Secunda Marine, a Dartmouth-based offshore services firm, has donated $2 million to the hospital’s fundraising campaign, and is helping raise more money.
The hospital’s foundation is most of the way towards its goal of $13 million. Other donors include the O’Regan family, Al and Mary McPhee and SaltWire, this newspaper’s parent company.
We have no doubt the public will pitch in to this worthy cause, but it’s strange that the province, which contributed $137 million to the Dartmouth General project alone, is so quiet on the subject. This huge reorganization of health care in Halifax, along with a similar project in Sydney, should be top of the agenda for Premier Stephen McNeil, Health Minister Randy Delorey and the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
These projects will make a big difference in the lives of Nova Scotians. You’d think the premier and the health minister would want to make that point to the people who might vote for them.