Premier OKs huge Health Sciences complex
By Lawrence McMahen
In admittedly pre-election form, Premier Lorne Calvert gave his government's firm commitment Sept. 23 to a massive new $120-million Academic Health Sciences Centre at the U of S that over many years will boost the University's health sciences colleges and transform the western part of campus.
U of S planners and health sciences leaders will take up to the next year putting together all the information they need to launch architectural and construction plans - but what is already known is that the major new Centre will be built between the current Health Sciences Building and the Saskatoon Cancer Centre, along the east side of Royal University Hospital.
And U of S Director of Planning & Development Colin Tennent says the huge, multi-year project will likely end up involving renovations to Health Sciences, the Dentistry Building and the existing Medical Research Building - and an elevated walkway over Campus Drive will link the enormous new Health Sciences complex to the Arts Building and the rest of campus.
At a packed luncheon in the Delta Bessborough Hotel, Premier Calvert announced "it may take six or seven years to complete", but "this government is committed to seeing this building built."
He noted the Centre will provide improvement and integration for Saskatchewan's health sciences research, medical education and patient services.
In election style the Premier said the project builds on the vision of Medicare's founders. He vowed to defend Medicare's "core values" and he blasted the federal government for inadequate health care funding and took a swipe at Ontario for "building private for-profit hospitals".
"We do not support the Americanization of health care," Calvert told his Sept. 23 audience of University, health care and political representatives.
He said the new Academic Health Sciences Centre "is an important step in strengthening the health sciences sector. Yet this is significantly more than a building announcement. This new building exemplifies our vision of health care in the future - integrated and multi-disciplined, with a focus on improving the health of people in Saskatchewan."
Calvert concluded by saying, "This is the beginning of a 21st-century facility that will take its place alongside the synchrotron, Innovation Place, and one of the best universities anywhere."
U of S President Peter MacKinnon said, "We are extremely pleased with the government's commitment to fund a new health sciences building that will enhance the recruitment of faculty, expand research, increase educational resources, and extend our medical and nursing programs into the community."
The building will provide for enhanced medical library space, state-of-the-art laboratories, and "will address central issues of space shortages for the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, the School of Physical Therapy, and other programs," MacKinnon said.
"This will help to establish the University of Saskatchewan's health science programs on a par with the very best," the President told the luncheon audience.
He added later that he hopes "we can proceed with the utmost dispatch to the design phase and to the construction phase."
The University has been considering the need for a major new health sciences facility for a number of years. More than two years ago it began proposing a building project to the provincial government, at which time the provincial opposition Saskatchewan Party pledged its support for a major new health sciences centre. Tangible planning for a facility got underway in mid-2002 when the government provided funding for the Saskatchewan Academic Health Sciences Network - an agency co-ordinating health planning - to begin exploring options.
Colin Tennent says campus planners have already devoted a lot of thought and preparation in advance of the formal project announcement.
They know, for instance, that the health science colleges want to be highly integrated, so work has been done on how that can be accomplished in a new facility.
"We've done extensive audits of the existing buildings, and looked at the chemical and electrical infrastructure requirements," Tennent says.
He adds "extensive renovation" of existing health sciences buildings will need to happen over time, including to the A and B Wings of the existing Health Sciences Building. And "Dentistry needs an addition", he said.
Tennent says it's important to spend the next few months determining all the program needs and considerations for the project.
"We're less concerned right now with the 'bricks and mortar' - that will follow."