Vet-Med project gets $15-million shot-in-the-arm
Provincial government gives major boost to expansion project; Set for March 2008 completion
By Colleen MacPherson
As it has done many times in the past, the Saskatchewan government has once again “stepped up to the plate” in support of veterinary medical education in this province.
Charles Rhodes, dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), was referring to the announcement Nov. 26 that the province will provide $15 million for the renovation and expansion of the college. The project includes a two-storey addition to the veterinary teaching hospital, additional research labs and upgrades to the diagnostic services area, all of which will “enhance the future performance (of the college) and maintain its stellar reputation”.
Speaking at a news conference, Rhodes said the much-needed upgrades will ensure students are exposed to the latest in diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, will attract top-notch faculty and will help the college meet the accreditation standards required of all vet schools in North America.
The provincial contribution to the college follows a December 2002 federal government announcement of $113 million in infrastructure funding for Canada’s four veterinary colleges. The WCVM portion was $22.24 million, with the proviso that matching funds be secured. With the commitment from the province, the college can now “concentrate on raising the final $5 million” for what will be a $43-million project, said Rhodes.
A capital campaign is already underway and Rhodes believes the additional commitment by the province will “allow us to maybe be more successful in our fundraising”.
In announcing the funding, Saskatchewan Learning Minister Andrew Thomson said investments in the province’s universities and research institutions goes a long way toward strengthening the Saskatchewan economy and provides young people with the chance to build solid foundations for the future.
Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Thomson said the WCVM will be a “true centre of excellence” for animal health, particularly when it is “paired up with the College of Agriculture, (and) paired up with VIDO (the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization)”. He added he hopes Alberta, which recently announced the establishment of its own vet training program at the University of Calgary and which is a signatory to the WCVM inter-provincial funding agreement, can be convinced to “look for ways to contribute here without drawing resources away”.
Rhodes said the idea for a veterinary college in Saskatchewan was first discussed in 1963 and on May 7 of that year the government of Woodrow Lloyd provided $1 million toward its establishment. Since 1969, the college has graduated some 2,200 veterinarians.
Under the funding agreement with the federal government, the college has until 2008 to complete the work “so we have a lot to get done,” said Rhodes. The dean said tenders should go out within the week and he hopes construction will begin in January.
Colin Tennent, director of planning and development with Facilities Management Division, said the WCVM project is extremely complex, with 27 sub-components to be co-ordinated. A project management firm has been contracted to oversee the project on a day-to-day basis, he said, but an added factor is that the WCVM “is a 24-hour-a-day operation so there’s no down time”. This means, for example, that the new teaching hospital must be completely finished and able to accommodate the whole operation before work can begin on renovating the existing space.
Despite the complexity, Tennent is confident the March 2008 deadline will be met.
Speaking to the media on behalf of U of S administration, Vice-President Finance and Resources Tony Whitworth said both federal and provincial investment in the college gives the message it is “leading edge” in the field of animal health.
Whitworth also took the opportunity to say the University is “looking forward” to the announcement of a financial commitment from the province on the $120-million Academic Health Sciences building. Thomson told reporters later that the government has “a few other issues we have to work through” on that project, “not the least of which is that it (the College of Medicine) is on probation”.