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Hospital construction updates yield more questions than answers

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Despite recent claims of great progress being made, no details surrounding the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital build are being made public. Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda took a tour of the facility along with local MLAs last month, contending it gave him confidence in the project.

“Construction is progressing really well with about 30 to 40 per cent of the work left to be done. I am confident that Clark Builders will be able to deliver the hospital on schedule and within budget.”

Panda says the hospital is more than 60 per cent complete. When the contract with original project manager Graham Construction ended in November 2018, then-Minister of Infrastructure Sandra Jansen said the outside shell was fully complete, and the interior 75 per cent done.

“There are over 400 construction workers on site per day, and this number will continue to rise as the construction manager brings on additional trades,” Panda adds. “Over 90 per cent of the previous subcontractors have returned to complete their scope of work.”

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Precisely what remains to be built is unclear. Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, who was also part of the minister’s tour, says she had been through the site before as part of the Capital Cabinet for the Hospital Foundation and did indeed see progress, but couldn’t pinpoint the changes.

“I would say I noted a significant differential, and I am glad to say that I did because it’s been two years. I’m not a construction person myself, so I couldn’t speak to any technical details but I’d definitely say there is progress being made.”

Allard notes she has yet to receive details on either an updated budget or finish date.

“I still haven’t had any definitive answers on them; I know that they’re pushing hard. We don’t have a clear answer when it will be open, but I know that the push is on to get it done as fast as possible, but done properly.”

Clark Builders took over the project before the end of 2018, and the province said a phased-in approach was being used to let them finalize new agreements. Since then, the company has been mum on activity.

“Our confidentiality agreement with Alberta Infrastructure is still in place,” explains spokesperson Christina Holmes. “As a result, Clark Builders is not permitted to comment on any facet of the project.”

Work on the new hospital has also been shrouded in controversy in recent months. In March, Edmonton-based Schendel Construction claimed it was owed more than $26 million for three years of contracted work. In May, The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that nearly $13 million of $30 million in Court-held government funds should be released to contractors owed for their work.

The hospital was initially set to be completed in 2017, with delays pushing it back to a date to be determined.

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