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Hospital work halts
Ailing construction company abandons hospital mid-reno

Peter Worden
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, May 11, 2013

The old Baffin Regional Hospital was left cut open last week and the future of its renovations are in limbo as general contractor Dowland Contracting Ltd. hasn't been able to pay its debts.

NNSL photo/graphic

Last week the general contractors for the major Iqaluit hospital renovation walked off the site as their parent company Dowland Contracting Ltd. is no longer able to pay its debts. - Peter Worden/NNSL photo

The major year-long demolition, remediation and renovation project came to a grinding halt May 8 as Dowland's workers abandoned the construction site. The 30-year-old company was in partnership with Nunavut Construction Company, as NCC-Downland joint venture. Along with sub-contractor Arctic Environmental Strategy, NCC will continue the first phase of the project, which is the demolition and removal of hazardous wastes.

"We didn't want to see everything stop all of sudden while we dealt with the broader general contractor issue," said Monte Kehler, director of support services at Qikiqtani General Hospital, adding the removal of hazardous waste was about 70 per cent complete with another month of work remaining.

"We wouldn't have left the site with bags of asbestos containing materials just in the hallways. That was our first priority, that if the site shut down everything was safe."

When Dowland defaulted, said Kehler, the hospital began working with a performance bond company to help mitigate the fallout.

"We've been working really hard with them to see as little impact as possible. It could be that we don't see any impact from it if all goes perfectly well."

On May 13, Kehler said a new general contractor will be checking out the site.

The 2,682-square-metre renovation of the old two-storey hospital wing, originally built in 1962, began in January and is expected to last 12 to 18 months. The work, which will include a new entrance with elevator, cafeteria, primary care, modern clinics and offices and two building additions, is scheduled to wrap up by January 2014. Kehler said the work is still on track, give or take four to eight weeks of minor delays.

"We're still working on that timeframe," said Kehler.

During construction, the clinics in the existing wing were to move into the vacant pediatric wing on the second floor of the newer portion of hospital, while the offices will move to the Akausisarvik facility, Nunavut News/North reported in May 2012.

The loss of the general contractor will undoubtedly complicate the renovations as materials are in the process of being fabricated and are on-order from far and wide. They must be ready in time for the sealift this summer.

Insolvency, which Dowland has declaredm differs from bankruptcy in that insolvency is an inability for a person or company to pay its debt; bankruptcy is determined by a court of law with orders to resolve its debt. Often the latter follows the former.

"It's sad," said Kehler, "to see a company go through that and all the people it affects."

Nunavut News/North was unable to contact anyone from Dowland Contracting Ltd. by press time.

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