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CT scanner on hold, again

Despite equipment donation, project still $600,000 over budget

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Whistler’s long wait to get a computed tomography (CT) scanner just got a little longer.

Construction of an addition to the Whistler Health Care Centre to house the state-of-the-art donation from GE has been postponed, after tenders for the project came in $600,000 over budget.

“I am terribly disappointed because this should have been up and running this year with all the training going on on the mountain,” Marnie Simon, chair of the Whistler Health Care Foundation, said on Monday.

“Our whole plan from the very beginning of the project was to have the CT scan in operation the year before the Olympics because of the dangers of all the training and the World Cup and everything that is going to be happening. But it does not seem like it is going to be.”

According to Simon, the four partners involved in the project — the Whistler Health Care Foundation, the Pemberton Health Care Foundation, the Squamish Hospital Foundation, and Vancouver Coastal Health — made the decision last week to put the project on hold until a more reasonable estimate to build it can be found.

About $2.14 million was set aside for the project, but that is more than $600,000 short of what’s needed, based on the bids received.

Simon hopes work on the Health Care Centre extension will begin this spring.

In the meantime, the partners are trying to understand why tenders came back so high and what can be done to make the building more affordable. The project development staff is meeting with the quantity surveyor, the consultant team and Scott Construction. A review of the construction market in Whistler is also underway.

“We really, really appreciate the community’s tolerance with all the delays and hope that they will maintain their trust that we are doing our very best to make sure their money is used to the very best way possible and to be as transparent and accountable to them as we possibly can,” Simon said.

“The bottom line here is Vancouver Coastal and the funding partners are fully committed to completing the CT scan project for the Whistler Health Care Centre for the 2010 Olympic Games, and hopefully quite a bit before that.”

The Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District’s (SSRDH) journey to get a CT scanner based in Whistler goes back some time.

Originally the plan was to purchase a refurbished CT scanner. Between 2006 and 2007, the Whistler Health Care Foundation, the Pemberton Health Care Foundation and the Squamish Hospital Foundation raised $1.1 million towards the estimated $2.3 million cost of the scanner and an addition to the health care centre to house it. SSRDH was to cover remaining costs — and even increased their funding earlier this year when costs rose $800,000.

The scope of the project changed this summer when GE, a worldwide Olympic Partner, announced it was donating a new $1.4 million, 64-slice CT scanner to the Sea to Sky region. At that time, the Heath Care Foundation hoped to have the advanced imaging equipment ready for business by Christmas.

Simon said because the donated scanner is more powerful than the refurbished unit, the architecture has been reworked. She added that the value of GE’s contribution totals $4.24 million and is a “very valuable gift.”

A CT scanner is a piece of medical equipment used to get a three-dimensional image of the inside of a body through a series of X-ray images.

Simon added that regular updates on the CT scanner will be posted at www.whistlerhealthcarefoundation.org .

“We really want to make sure that everyone knows what we are doing and that we are very transparent,” she said.

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