Vive le CHUM! was the rallying cry from those attending the official inauguration of the new French-language hospital, held Sunday in the presence of Premier Philippe Couillard, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, hospital directors, among other dignitaries.
Speeches following the grand tour of the Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal superhospital touched on its long history — a saga almost 20 years in the making with debates on where to build it followed by construction delays. The CHUM was lauded as a world-class complex, one of largest healthcare facilities in North America, with a high-tech centre for research, teaching and patient care, and an architectural jewel in the heart of Montreal.
A financial battle brewing between the consortium responsible for building the downtown mega-hospital complex and its subcontractors cast a minor pall on the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Quebec can be proud of having such a vast and modern infrastructure, Couillard told a crowd gathered for the ceremony. It’s a great collective accomplishment that deserves recognition, he said.
“It’s a marvellous building but above all a resource for patients and for Quebec society, and on a world-class scale,” Couillard said. “Bravo CHUM.”
The new hospital complex has three office-type towers with 25 floors, 772 private patient rooms, each with a large sofa chair that can, in a pinch, convert into a makeshift bed for overnight visitors. There’s also a critical care unit, 39 operating theatres, including dedicated ORs for robotic surgery, heart surgery, neurosurgery and transplants, pharmacy and blood bank. Innovative features include a network of self-guided vehicles to carry equipment around the hospital, plus nine kilometers of pneumatic tubing to deliver drugs and medication, blood samples and other items.
Cancer treatment rooms in the basement are equipped with walls and doors nearly two feet thick to contain radiation and have state-of-the-art linear accelerators for fast and accurate radiotherapy. The emergency room is equipped with scanning machines and a decontamination room.
The first batch of patients are to be transferred within three weeks. Health Care Relocations, the company that helped with the massive move of patients from the old Royal Victoria and Montreal Children’s hospital buildings to the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre two years ago, recommended a similar gradual move.
On Oct. 8, about 160 to 170 patients will be moved through a corridor from St-Luc Hospital on René-Lévesque Blvd. to the buildings on St-Denis St. and Viger Ave. On Nov. 5, patients from Hôtel Dieu on St-Urbain St. will move, and the last patients are expected on Nov. 26 from Notre-Dame Hospital on Sherbrooke St., across from Lafontaine Park.
Sunday’s inauguration completes the second phase of the $3.6-billion Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal superhospital, which launched its first phase in 2013 with the construction of the CHUM’s research centre. The third phase calls for the demolition of the old St. Luc hospital to make way for the construction of additional clinical space, offices and a copper-clad amphitheater, to be completed in 2021. Until then, the main entrance to the CHUM will be on Sanginet St.
In interviews later, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the CHUM might have overstepped its opening date but not its budget. Construction Santé Montréal was required to deliver the completed facilities to the CHUM by April 22, 2016. Since that date, the government has withheld more than $10 million a month in leasing and maintenance payments.
“I’ve always said, and I’ll repeat, ‘We’re going to pay what’s due, never what’s not due,'” Barrette said.
The issue with CSM subcontractors is a contract worth $25 million, Stéphane Mailhot, a spokesperson for Construction Santé Montréal explained in an email later. “And they’ve agreed to go to mediation.”
On a project with a budget of $3.6 billion, “it’s normal to have a few millions that are the subject of litigation,” Barrette added. “As we speak we are on the way to finding a resolution that will satisfy both parties.”
The opening of the CHUM superhospital is the last phase in the modernization of Montreal’s major hospitals, totalling more than $7 billion in direct and indirect costs — more than triple the original estimates. Among those projects were the expansion of the Jewish General and Ste-Justine hospitals, as well as the construction of the two megahospitals, the MUHC affiliated with McGill, and the CHUM with Université de Montréal.
An open house will be held for the public next weekend. Visitors can sign up at nouveauchum.com.