HALIFAX – The McNeil government’s plan to spend $645 million on capital projects in 2016-17 is receiving criticism from both opposition parties, particularly for what they call a lack of health care spending in the province.
In the capital plan announced Tuesday, Finance Minister Randy Delorey said $26.5 million was set aside for hospital improvements and equipment purchases, with $1.5 million earmarked for the planning of a potential move of services from the aging Victoria General Hospital.
The Progressive Conservatives and the NDP both wonder why there’s no money set aside for the physical replacement of the trouble-plagued hospital.
PC Finance Critic Tim Houston said money for the VG site should have been more of a priority in the plans.
“There’s been no new recognition by the government that there’s a problem and that’s a problem,” Houston said. “There’s an issue there, it’s going to take money to fix it and we’re not seeing it being acknowledged in the budgeting process.”
Acting NDP leader Maureen MacDonald contends Tuesday’s commitment of money for planning has been seen before, when her party was in government, and wonders why the Liberals have taken so long to move on their former plans for improvements at the site.
“The old Capital District Health Authority had some of their plans up on their website, this government took them down,” MacDonald said. “Health Care…is an area where you need constant investment, thoughtful investments, but constant investment.”
She called the trouble-plagued hospital site a disgrace, adding the tertiary health centre needs to have plans for a replacement sped up, not put on hold.
Finance Minister Randy Delorey said Tuesday while a serious investment is needed for the eventual replacement of the Victoria General site, if it were rushed, it would likely lead to a disaster.
“Hospital builds and the work that goes in are complex,” Delorey said. “The services and the cost of getting it wrong are far too high.”
Delorey said the Department of Health and Wellness identified priorities during the planning process and the government moved on those priorities.
“We’ve allocated a significant amount of money to the health capital side of things to focus on those priorities,” he said.
A significant flood at the VG’s Centennial Building in September caused extensive damage to two floors of the hospital, and recent media reports from a former patient speak of rats, bedbugs, dirty rooms and other problems.
Most recently, the building lost heat last month after a water leak led to the radiators in the building being drained.
Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine said as late as last Thursday that an announcement regarding a vision for the future of the Victoria General Hospital would be released this month.