The Health Sciences Centre is looking at expanding its footprint north of William Avenue with the acquisition of an old school building at a cost of $1.35 million.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority refused this week to reveal the hospital's plans for the former Ellen Douglass School at 700 Elgin Ave. until the purchase is approved by Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen.
Goertzen said he wants more information about the region's and the hospital's plans for the building and assurances it will use it for patient care - not office space - before he signs off on the deal.
The purchase of the 46,000-square-foot, two-storey, 1960s vintage structure from Winnipeg School Division was approved in September by the outgoing NDP-appointed WRHA board of directors. The Progressive Conservatives have since appointed their own board, but Goertzen said he's not asked the new board to review the purchase.
"It's actually not an unusual request," he said of the WRHA proposal to snap up an available property adjacent to one of its hospitals.
The coveted property lies immediately north of Health Sciences Centre's William Avenue Parkade.
"It would be a strategic location, for sure, for HSC. I don’t doubt that, and I don’t have any concerns about it being a strategic location. More so, I want to make sure that it’s being used for a purpose that the public would justifiably say makes sense," Goertzen said.
"It’s all about accountability and how health care dollars are being spent. So, if there is a case to be made that it is a good acquisition that’s going to better care for people in the short- and in the long-term, then that’s what we’re looking for."
Goertzen said he expects to have a decision for the WRHA in weeks, as opposed to months.
The Winnipeg School Division has been trying to unload the property for some time. A WSD spokeswoman said its only use now is as an off-campus class for Tec Voc High School.
In its September board meeting minutes, the WRHA indicated that funding for the purchase would come from "ancillary operations and not from government funding or borrowings."
A WRHA spokeswoman said Wednesday that ancillary operations typically include revenues from parking, food and retail sales and rental spaces. She noted, however, that parking at HSC is operated on a break-even basis.