MLA calls health centre deal ‘fishy’

Scott Fraser says proposed clinic offers residents nothing new

Scott Fraser ... project should have gone back to tender

Scott Fraser ... project should have gone back to tender

Scott Fraser this week waded into the issue of the Oceanside health centre, calling the process that led to the proposed $14.4 million facility questionable at best.

Fraser, the MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim, questioned why the process didn’t go back to tender after the successful bidder, a joint bid by the Lark Group and Ahmon Group, pulled out of the management portion of the project.

“The whole process has been fishy from the beginning,” Fraser said. “Right from the original tendering, the contract went to a friend and insider of government and they didn’t even meet the basic requirements of the request for proposals.”

Specifically, he said the request for proposals included both the construction and management of the proposed centre, but soon after winning the bid, the management portion was dropped by the proponent.

“The partnership that applied for this doesn’t exist any more and … the whole management portion is gone.”

“That was an essential part of the RFP,” he said. “In a normal world, you would think we would need to go back to tender.”

Instead, Fraser continued, the bid was retained, with the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) opting to run the facility.

“There was no mention during the process of VIHA picking up anything that was dropped and paying for it,” he said.

Fraser said the proposed facility will not provide the new services he sees Oceanside residents needing.

“We are not getting any new services,” he said. “It’s going to be doctors offices and lease space. It’s no hospital, no overnight beds, no palliative care, no emergency service.

“We already have an X-ray clinic in town and we have more pharmacies per capita than, probably, any other community in the whole world. None of this makes any sense.”

The cost of the proposed facility also came under Fraser’s fire.

“It’s going to cost $385 per square foot,” he said, noting the new city hall in Nanaimo is pegged at $285 per square foot. “This is a very desirable contract, but it never went back to tender, so Vancouver Island companies that would have bid on it — without the management portion — were not given the opportunity. It’s like they won the lottery.”

Federation of Oceanside Residents Associations spokesperson Tom Davies disagreed, stressing that while the proposed facility won’t include all the services residents might want, it does provide services not currently available here.

“It is going to provide urgent care services that we can rely on that we don’t have now,” Davies said. “That’s a key factor, because between 8,000 and 10,000 visits per year that currently go to Nanaimo can be serviced here.”

Davies said the facility will be wired to provide tele-health, allowing some patients to be diagnosed by a specialist without having to leave town. As well, the site will be able to be served by roving mammography or MRI machines.

“The plans I have seen include a docking station, so they can just pull up, plug in and that can be done there,” he said.

Davies stressed the centre will provide a solid foundation for expansion at a later date.

“We all need to understand this isn’t going to satisfy everybody,” he said. “What we are looking at it as is a foundation, a good start to build on.

“It’s not something you walk away from, give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. What happens down the road experience will dictate, but we can never lose focus. It’s a work in progress that will never, ever stop changing. If we do it right at the beginning, we will have something substantial to build on in the future.”

The cost to build it, he added, shouldn’t be too surprising, as medical facilities are expensive to build and the price also includes a significant amount of equipment.