Volume 13, Number 9 January 6, 2006

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Health Sciences Centre proceeding after province provides $100m

By Lawrence McMahen

With $100 million provided by the provincial government last month, the U of S is now able to move forward with more tangible planning of the huge, multi-year Academic Health Sciences Centre building project.

Wasting no time, the Board of Governors voted at its Dec. 9 meeting to approve preliminary plans for the location, program, design, construction schedule, and capital and operating budgets of the Centre.

In a switch from an earlier idea, the project is now split into two new buildings – a seven-storey “biomedical research tower”, attached to the north side of the existing Health Sciences building, and a four-storey academic building, attached to the 1955 wing of the Royal University Hospital. The project also includes some renovations to old Health Sciences and RUH.



University Architect and Director of Planning & Development Colin Tennent says an unprecedented amount of consultation and co-operative planning went on between Facilities Management Division and representatives of the user groups in the various health-related colleges. He says the result is a logical cluster of buildings and programs suited to an interdisciplinary and collaborative style of teaching, research and clinical work.

The new and existing health buildings will house the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, and Pharmacy & Nutrition, as well as the School of Physical Therapy, a School of Public Health, a Social Population Health Research unit, the Canadian Centre for Health & Safety in Agriculture, an animal holding facility, biomedical labs, administrative offices, a new 504-seat lecture theatre, and a new larger Academic Health Sciences Library. The northern new building will be linked over Campus Drive to the Arts classroom wing.

“The interdisciplinary approach is relatively cutting-edge, possibly even revolutionary,” Tennent says. He adds project planners visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Washington University in St. Louis – both of which are pursuing “truly interdisciplinary programs” – but the U of S, with its full scope of health sciences colleges, will take the model a step further.

The result, as Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert and U of S President Peter MacKinnon said at a formal cheque presentation ceremony Dec. 12, is expected to be a state-of-the-art facility and program that will attract medical students and doctors.

Calvert also told a luncheon audience at the downtown ceremony that the government knows the $100 million is the first payment towards the Academic Health Sciences Centre, and “additional funding will be provided”. Two years ago, Calvert pledged $120 million for the project, but with escalating construction costs, the University estimates it will cost $251 million by its scheduled completion in 2011. The Board of Governors gave preliminary approval to an annual operating budget expected to be $4.6 million when the new facility is open.

At the December funding announcement, MacKinnon said the $100 million “marks a historical investment” not only for the U of S, but for the whole province. He said it “will significantly enhance” Saskatchewan’s ability to attract and retain medical specialists, health science researchers and health science students.

Calvert, MacKinnon and Tennent all credited Dr. Jim Melenchuk with providing key contact among the various partners and gaining agreement for the project. Melenchuk was appointed last March to serve as liaison between the government and the U of S on the Academic Health Sciences Centre project and the renewal of accreditation for the College of Medicine.

Tennent says this project has involved “probably the most intensive involvement of end-users (in the planning) of any project Facilities Management Division has undertaken. Now, FMD project managers Ron Niekamp and Chris Bergen are drafting a request for proposals from companies for architectural and engineering consulting services for the planned building.

It is expected that sod will be turned for the two new buildings early in 2007. Some renovations in the existing Health Sciences Building may not be finished until late 2013.

As part of the huge project, working groups have been established on a variety of program issues, including Aboriginal health, animal research facility, biomedical research, clinical research, the Health Sciences library, teaching space, and students.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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