September 5, 2008
By Colleen MacPherson
For U of S President Peter MacKinnon, the recent government announcement of an extra $100 million for the Academic Health Sciences project represents not only the go-ahead for construction but also a commitment to the future of health science education.
“I am delighted by this announcement,” said MacKinnon. “The additional $100 million reflects the province’s commitment to the shared vision of the government and the university for a first-rate Academic Health Sciences centre.”
The funding announcement was made Aug. 15 following consultation between the government and the university over the results of tenders on the biomedical research portion of the project, known as D wing. Graham Construction’s low bid of $127.5 million exceeded the 2005 project budget by more than five per cent, which, by prior agreement, meant the university had to consult with government before awarding the tender.
The budget for the entire D wing portion of the centre now stands at about $157 million which includes non-construction costs such as consultants’ fees, site development, equipment and internal university expenses. The new facility will wrap around the existing Health Sciences Building and will house biomedical research labs, academic offices and animal research facilities.
MacKinnon said the process of developing the project has been plagued by an inflation rate in construction costs “much higher than could have been anticipated, but we can now make progress in delivering the facilities we need and hopefully avoid further cost inflation in the future.”
The new funding will also allow planning to proceed on the next phase of the project —E wing—which will house a library, lecture theatres, offices, graduate student space, clinical teaching space, meeting rooms and a below-ground parkade.
When complete, the centre will bring together the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Pharmacy and Nutrition as well as the Schools of Physical Therapy and Public Health. It will also accommodate collaborative research between the health sciences and the Colleges of Kinesiology, Veterinary Medicine, Engineering and Arts and Science as well as other entities like the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).
“Our shared vision for Academic Health Sciences has two components as represented by D wing and E wing,” said the president. “Together they create a centre that respects the three mandates of health science education—practice, teaching and research.
“If you look at the history of this university and the hospital setting, we have not always seen the recognition that research is a vital component of health science education. In earlier projects, research was too often viewed as an indulgence or an extra, but it is neither. It’s a vitally important component and this project recognizes the obligations and opportunities at the University of Saskatchewan to be a leading centre in both research and teaching.”