After years of keeping crumbling infrastructure together, Quebec is greenlighting a $2.5 billion renovation project that will update and expand the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal’s East end.
It’s an additional $700 million investment from when the project was first announced in 2018.
Originally, it was announced as a brand new building, which officials admit would have been an easier project.
But Quebec decided to renovate existing infrastructure, because the current hospital is located close to one of the planned REM de L’Est stations.
“There had been discussions over the last few years: do we build here or do we go to another site?” said Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé.
“The choice became very obvious to choose this location because of this new [REM] site.”
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The province says it will be drawing up plans in the next two years, with the goal of having shovels in the ground in 2024.
The planning phase will count on a budget of $94.2 million.
The updated hospital will expand its offering from 544 to 720 beds.
The emergency room will go from 54 to 79 stretchers.
“We will stop having second-class hospitals in the east end of Montreal and we will build quality hospitals,” said Dubé.
The Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital is literally crumbling — it’s got fences holding the bricks from falling off the façade.
Inside, most areas don’t have air conditioning or proper ventilation. The building is in such poor condition that the province has qualified it as dilapidated.
“People go to the hospital and you almost feel like you have to apologize,” said Melissa Bellemare, the coordinator for the hospital’s patients committee.
“The people are amazing, the staff are amazing but the hospital is not up to standard. Our nurses and doctors are doing everything they can with what they have.”
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Bellemare says the hospital doesn’t have single rooms, only double or quadruple.
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“You have maternity rooms with four families in the same room. Families were using the same bathroom in 40 degree heat,” Bellemare explained.
The Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital was built in 1954.
Since then, there have been some renovations, but not enough to keep up with the demand for services in the area.
The issue has become even more evident during the pandemic as the hospital dealt with staff shortages and COVID-19 outbreaks.
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“I think if we have those world-class facilities, people will not only want to work here but they’ll want to establish themselves here,” Dubé said, citing there are less shortages in newer hospitals such as the MUHC.
Bellemare says the announcement has left the committee with too many unanswered questions.
“We were expecting more beds and the hospital to be built in another site to make it easier,” Bellemare said.
“Why will it only be in three years when the announcement was in 2018? What about the people who are in those rooms, will they have to deal with construction for 10 years?”
Bellemare also questions how services will be maintained while there is construction not only of a new hospital, but also of the REM.
“I just don’t know how it’ll work,” Bellemare said. “I know they say they have experience with the MUHC, but were they building the REM at the same time? We are already at a hard time in the hospital.”
Quebec Solidaire MNA for Rosemont, Vincent Marissal, has been pushing for the province to come up with a timeline to update the hospital.
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He says the announcement is a good first step, but agrees information is still missing.
“This new project has been announced by the way by the previous Liberal government three years ago. We are now at the same place, at the same time three years later, announcing the same thing.” said Marissal.
“An announcement is a good start. But it’s not the end.”
Marissal says he will keep pushing to make sure the province follows through on its promise, because he doesn’t want Maisonneuve-Rosemont to suffer the same faith as the MUHC.
“It took 25 years from A to Z, from the announcement to the inauguration of the new hospital,” Marissal said of the new MUHC.
“We cannot wait 25 years.”
The province does not have an estimated timeline for construction.
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