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Regional health centre takes a step forward.

After eights years of waiting, local residents may see construction under way for the North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) as early as this spring.

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NBRHC and Infrastructure Ontario solicited proposals last year and have selected Plenary Health as the preferred proponent to build and maintain the new 724,000-square-foot centre over a 30-year period. The centre will include the 275-bed North Bay General Hospital and the 113-bed Northeast Mental Health Centre.

The contract is under negotiations and is expected to close by mid-March, with construction to begin soon afterwards.

"This progress marks a huge relief for everyone who's toiled over this project for the last eight years," says Roger Marleau, chairman, joint executive committee, North Bay Regional Health Centre Project.

"We're tickled that it's finally happening. It's been a long time coming."

Two years ago, the facility's construction was estimated to cost nearly $250 million; however, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal instituted an Alternate Financing and Procurement (AFP) model in 2005, which requires the winning bidder to initially finance the project and be reimbursed upon completion.

Pat Stephens, spokesperson for the NBRHC, says the new total is guaranteed to be more expensive than pre-AFP estimates, simply because the final cost will include maintenance of the facility over three decades.

"It is not unlike taking on a mortgage for a house with 30 years worth of plumbing and heating costs factored into it," she says.

Approximately $40 million of the cost is being provided by the municipality and the NBRHC, with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care slated to pay the remainder.

No price tag has been officially announced. However, the Plenary Group's corporate website features a Jan. 22, 2007 article from the Australian Financial Review discussing the North Bay bid. It states the company "has won its second Canadian concession in the form of a major hospital project worth about $C400 million."

Plenary Group Canada managing director Paul Dunstan could not confirm the amount, saying the stated number was "total guesswork." He added that the official total would not be known until the Ontario government completes its full assessment of the project and the contract is signed.

Dunstan points out Plenary Group, formed in 2004, has already been involved in a number of similar multi-million-dollar projects, such as the Casey Community Hospital in Berwick, Australia. Even Plenary Group's senior management has been previously involved in other projects; prior to joining Plenary, Dunstan helped to head up a consortium, which built the Abbotsford Hospital and Cancer Centre in Vancouver.

Plenary Health, selected from a short list of three consortia, consists of Plenary Group, PCL Constructors, Deutsche Bank AG and Johnson Controls. It has also been short-listed for the construction, financing and operation of the proposed 289-bed Sault Area Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie.

"We have a high level of experience which is well regarded in the industry," Dunstan says. "We have a quality financial partner through the Deutsche Bank, and we're looking forward to working within North Bay."

At the end of the 30-year management period, Plenary Health will turn the hospital back to the province in a condition similar in quality to which it was received. It has not been determined who will manage the hospital at that time.

The new facility will represent a significant leap forward for anyone receiving health care in North Bay, Marleau says. Not only does it replace a 50-year-old building made from 70-year-old designs, but it will also allow for the installation of equipment unavailable at the current hospital, such as the latest available imaging equipment.

"Up until now, we've been using some older technology because of space issues, and in the health field especially, technology has developed something awful," Marleau says. "It'll also make doctor recruitment a lot smoother, because it's much easier to attract people when you have the best tools and a state-of-the-art facility. It's good news all around for northeastern Ontario."

By NICK STEWART

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2007 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: NORTH BAY
Author:Stewart, Nick
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:663
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