PUB­LIC SELL-OFF, PUB­LIC BUY­BACK

Health of­fi­cials sold the Holy Cross 10 years ago to­day, say­ing they didn’t need the old hos­pi­tal. But Cal­gary’s med­i­cal sys­tem has been buy­ing back health ser­vices at the site ever since.

Calgary Herald - - City & Ob­server - MICHELLE LANG AND KELLY CRY­DER­MAN CAL­GARY HER­ALD

Room by room, floor by floor, Frank Hunt auc­tioned off the re­mains of the Holy Cross Hos­pi­tal. On the wards, he sold beds. In the morgue, he sold steel ta­bles. The Cal­gary auc­tion­eer nav­i­gated the hos­pi­tal’s halls, ac­com­pa­nied by a throng of buy­ers, un­til the only signs of its for­mer life were farewell mes­sages from nurses, scrawled in felt pen across the walls.

The ven­er­a­ble Holy Cross, founded by nuns more than a cen­tury ear­lier, was dead, the vic­tim of pub­lic-sector cuts.

“It was sad,” said Hunt, whose son Nathan re­ceived stitches as a child in the Holy Cross emer­gency depart­ment. “It was al­ways my hos­pi­tal.” The De­cem­ber 1996 sale of med­i­cal equip­ment, con­ducted by Hunt and his team, raised some $100,000 — pocket change for a med­i­cal sys­tem spend­ing mil­lions a day. But the Cal­gary Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity had a big­ger auc­tion in mind.

Ex­actly 10 years ago, Cal­gary’s health body sold the Holy Cross build­ings to En­ter­prise Universal, a com­pany owned by lo­cal eye sur­geon Dr. Peter Huang, his two brothers and their mother. At the time, a furor erupted as pub­lic health ad­min­is­tra­tors said Cal­gary had too many hos­pi­tal beds; clos­ing both the Holy Cross and blow­ing up the old Gen­eral hos­pi­tal would save $40 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion a year in op­er­at­ing costs.

But con­tro­versy that dogged the Holy Cross sale in 1997 hasn’t died, with de­bate sim­mer­ing over whether clos­ing a hos­pi­tal was a failed ex­per­i­ment in health-care re­struc­tur­ing and whether the buy­ers ben­e­fited from their staunch sup­port of the gov­ern­ing Tory party.

The one cer­tainty is that a decade since it was de­cided Cal­gary’s health sys­tem didn’t need Holy Cross, the fa­cil­ity still has lu­cra­tive con­tracts with the pub­lic sector worth mil­lions a year.

Since its sale, the Holy Cross has treated 50,000 pa­tients. Al­berta tax­pay­ers have bought back thou­sands of surg­eries, ser­vices and space at the red brick build­ings in Mis­sion.

Doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Her­ald re­veal the ex­tent of pub­licly funded med­i­cal care still de­liv­ered at the fa­cil­ity now known as Holy Cross Cen­tre.

The doc­u­ments, re­leased through free­dom of in­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion, show the Cal­gary Health Re­gion awarded con­tracts worth at least $29 mil­lion to have eye surg­eries, her­nia re­pairs, den­tal pro­ce­dures and other ser­vices per­formed at Holy Cross Cen­tre dur­ing the past decade.

The con­tracts were with Holy Cross Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices and En­ter­prise Universal, businesses con­trolled by Huang and his physi­cian brothers, Ian and John.

“Sell­ing the Holy Cross was a mas­sive blun­der,” said Kevin Taft, the Al­berta Lib­eral leader.

“It’s al­most cer­tainly cost the tax­pay­ers more money.”

CHR ex­ec­u­tives and the Al­berta govern­ment de­fend the de­ci­sion to sell the 400-bed hos­pi­tal, say­ing they never could have an­tic­i­pated the growth that Cal­gary has ex­pe­ri­enced.

And of­fi­cials with the re­gion and Holy Cross Cen­tre in­sist it’s far cheaper to buy pro­ce­dures at the pri­vate clinic be­cause it doesn’t have the over­head costs of a ma­jor pub­lic hos­pi­tal.

“It was not a mis­take to sell the Holy Cross,” said CHR chief ex­ec­u­tive Jack Davis.

“At the time those de­ci­sions were made, they were made on the best in­for­ma­tion (avail­able) and they made sense.”

Peter Huang, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Holy Cross Cen­tre, said his fa­cil­ity’s prices are low.

“We’re very ef­fi­cient,” he said in an in­ter­view. “If you were to do the same pro­ce­dure in the hos­pi­tal set­ting it would be a lot more ex­pen­sive.”

De­spite as­ser­tions that tax­pay­ers are re­ceiv­ing good value for the surg­eries, the Al­berta Lib­er­als still ques­tion the Holy Cross’s price tag.

CHR sold the fa­cil­ity — val­ued as high as $20 mil­lion — for $4.57 mil­lion to En­ter­prise Universal, which has made sev­eral dona­tions to the provin­cial Con­ser­va­tives over the years.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties have also made much of Huang’s dou­ble­duty roles as CHR’s head of oph­thal­mol­ogy at the same time he was part-owner of a clinic that won ma­jor oph­thal­mol­ogy con­tracts from the health au­thor­ity.

Last year, Huang qui­etly quit the long-time post.

Some physi­cians, mean­while, ar­gue the great­est cost of the Holy Cross’s sale has been the im­pact on the health sys­tem.

Dr. David Jenkinson, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon who warned govern­ment in the 1990s the clo­sure of three Cal­gary hos­pi­tals was a “pre­scrip­tion for chaos,” said his prog­no­sis was cor­rect.

City hos­pi­tals now ex­pe­ri­ence bed short­ages and long line­ups in emer­gency.

“Ev­ery­thing we pre­dicted has come true, only more so,” said Jenkinson, who left Cal­gary for the U.S. be­cause he was an­gry with cuts at the Holy Cross and Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

“They were go­ing to save $50 mil­lion here or $20 mil­lion there, ridicu­lously small sums when you see what they’re spend­ing now on try­ing to catch up,” he said.

As Lauren Mor­ri­son drove home with her mother from Holy Cross on a warm day this June, she lit­er­ally saw the world through new eyes.

The nine-year-old girl had just un­der­gone laser eye surgery to cor­rect se­vere near­sight­ed­ness.

“On the way home from the hos­pi­tal, she was point­ing out things she had never seen be­fore,” said her proud mother, Co­lette Mor­ri­son.

That same day, Huang headed out of surgery wear­ing white sneak­ers with his sur­gi­cal scrubs.

As he stood in the Holy Cross hos­pi­tal — his hos­pi­tal — he de­scribed his work in pi­o­neer­ing the surgery for chil­dren like Lauren.

In the past decade, Huang and his fam­ily — in­clud­ing his brothers Ian and John — have turned the sprawl­ing se­ries of build­ings on 2nd Street S.W. into a bustling en­ter­prise.

The Holy Cross, founded in 1891 by Mon­treal’s Sis­ters of Char­ity, now houses more than a dozen pri­vate health-re­lated businesses, in­clud­ing a phar­macy, doc­tors’ of­fices and a laser ther­apy com­pany.

And the Huangs’ businesses, which in­clude Holy Cross Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices and En­ter­prise Universal, have won a wide range of tax­payer-funded con­tracts that have kept the fa­cil­ity’s op­er­at­ing rooms busy.

Doc­u­ments show the largest health ser­vices con­tracts with the CHR in­clude:

Eye surgery: The to­tal value of sev­eral oph­thal­mol­ogy agree­ments over the past nine years was at least $17.8 mil­lion.

A nurs­ing home: CHR paid En­ter­prise Universal to run a 42bed long-term care home for seniors at a to­tal cost of $9.8 mil­lion over the six years it was open. The health re­gion abruptly can­celled the longterm care con­tract this spring, al­leg­ing care con­cerns and fire safety prob­lems.

The CHR has also con­tracted Holy Cross Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices to pro­vide mi­nor op­er­a­tions at the fa­cil­ity dur­ing the past decade, in­clud­ing den­tal ser­vices, po­di­a­try pro­ce­dures, ear nose and throat op­er­a­tions, her­nia surg­eries as well as mid­dle ear pro­ce­dures.

Holy Cross Cen­tre of­fi­cials said the 50,000 pa­tients they’ve treated over the years have had high rates of sat­is­fac­tion and good med­i­cal out­comes.

“Talk to the peo­ple who live here and the staff who work here. They love it here,” Peter Huang told the Her­ald.

Yet, the fact the CHR con­tin­ues to pur­chase surgery at one of its for­mer pub­lic hos­pi­tals has been a bone of con­tention for op­po­si­tion par­ties over the years.

“We’re now pay­ing a profit to the peo­ple who were skill­ful (enough) to per­suade the govern­ment of Al­berta to part with a gem, an as­set like the Holy Cross hos­pi­tal,” Gary Dickson, a for­mer Cal­gary Lib­eral MLA, told the Al­berta leg­is­la­ture in 2000.

The busi­ness the Huangs built at Holy Cross is hardly lim­ited to surg­eries.

Gov­ern­ments have awarded con­tracts worth $9.8 mil­lion to develop seniors’ hous­ing at the site, al­though the ma­jor­ity of the cash was re­cently re­turned be­cause the pro­jects never went ahead.

CHR, the Al­berta Cancer Board and Mount Royal Col­lege have also spent at least $5 mil­lion leas­ing space at the for­mer hos­pi­tal dur­ing the past 10 years.

For in­stance, the cancer board, a govern­ment-funded agency that de­liv­ers cancer care in the prov­ince, has spent about $2.25 mil­lion on rent and op­er­at­ing costs at Holy Cross Cen­tre since it be­gan leas­ing space at the fa­cil­ity in 2003.

Cancer board of­fi­cials were forced to move parts of their ad­min­is­tra­tion to the old hos­pi­tal be­cause the Tom Baker Cancer Cen­tre was so strapped for space.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion re­cently asked the prov­ince for an undis­closed amount of money to ren­o­vate and ex­pand their op­er­a­tions at the Holy Cross.

CHR, too, has been run­ning out of room at its pub­lic hos­pi­tals.

Per­sis­tent bed short­ages have plagued Cal­gary’s health sys­tem in re­cent years.

CHR blames the sit­u­a­tion on Al­berta’s pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion; the health body has an am­bi­tious cap­i­tal ex­pan­sion plan to ad­dress the prob­lem, in­clud­ing the out­lay of $1.25 bil­lion for a new hos­pi­tal in south Cal­gary.

Many of those work­ing in the health sys­tem say the loss of the Holy Cross and other hos­pi­tals dur­ing the 1990s helped cre­ate the space crunch in the first place.

Emer­gency wards have been par­tic­u­larly hard hit by the squeeze and wait times last win­ter climbed as high as 13 hours for pa­tients who needed a bed.

“The im­pact of clos­ing the Holy and the Gen­eral was just stu­pen­dous,” said Marie Sushel­nit­sky, a long­time Holy Cross nurse who gave the clos­ing speech at the fa­cil­ity and now prac­tices at Rock­yview’s emer­gency ward.

“You go there some days and you’re just drown­ing.”

CHR of­fi­cials say lo­cal hos­pi­tals are also short be­tween five and seven op­er­at­ing rooms, mak­ing con­tracts with Holy Cross Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices and other pri­vate clin­ics an im­por­tant part of Cal­gary’s sur­gi­cal pro­gram.

“We’re mit­i­gat­ing a fair amount of that short­age by send­ing that ca­pac­ity to the pri­vate sector,” said Tracy Wa­sy­lak, a CHR vice-pres­i­dent.

But a for­mer Cal­gary hos­pi­tal boss said the health body wouldn’t need to buy ser­vices at Holy Cross Cen­tre if the hos­pi­tal had sim­ply re­mained in the pub­lic health-care sys­tem.

“They’ve ba­si­cally just sold the build­ing off and they’ve been buy­ing it back or leas­ing it back in small por­tions, not with a great re­sult,” said Ralph Coombs, re­tired chief ex­ec­u­tive of Foothills Hos­pi­tal.

CHR ex­ec­u­tives said Cal­gar­i­ans have been well served by the thou­sands of surg­eries pur­chased at the old hos­pi­tal. The op­er­a­tions are awarded through a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process, they note.

“When you look at what it would have cost us to run the Holy . . . ver­sus the one-time costs of con­tract­ing ser­vices, you’re much fur­ther ahead,” said Davis of the CHR, which de­clined re­quests to re­veal fig­ures on such sav­ings.

If Holy Cross had sim­ply closed its doors in the 1990s, the de­bate about re­struc­tur­ing the city’s health sys­tem may have ended there.

In­stead, the hos­pi­tal was sold for $4.57 mil­lion to En­ter­prise Universal.

The de­ci­sion pro­vided fod­der for op­po­si­tion party attacks that con­tinue to this day, in­clud­ing ques­tions about the Huangs’ sup­port for the Tory party and the mil­lions in tax­payer-funded ren­o­va­tions that were halted when the prov­ince an­nounced the hos­pi­tal’s clo­sure.

“Af­ter putting $30 mil­lion into Cal­gary’s Holy Cross hos­pi­tal, this govern­ment turned around and sold it to the Huang brothers, a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion, for $4.5 mil­lions of dol­lars — a $25mil­lion-dol­lar-plus gift,” Lib­eral MLA Lance White said dur­ing a 1999 de­bate in the leg­is­la­ture.

A decade ago, a “dis­po­si­tion” com­mit­tee was charged with sell­ing the hos­pi­tal.

It ini­tially re­jected a pro­posal from the Huang brothers, who al­ready ran two pri­vate med­i­cal clin­ics in Cal­gary, dur­ing pre­lim­i­nary stages of the se­lec­tion process.

Paul Rush­forth, who was chief ex­ec­u­tive of the for­mer Cal­gary Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity (re­named the CHR), said they didn’t want to en­ter­tain pro­pos­als where the old hos­pi­tal would con­tract back med­i­cal ser­vices from the health body.

“If it was pri­vate it would have to be a to­tally pri­vate en­tity,” Rush­forth said at the time.

In­stead, the dis­po­si­tion com­mit­tee spent the spring of 1997 look­ing se­ri­ously at two com­pet­ing bids — worth be­tween $2 mil­lion and $3.5 mil­lion — to develop con­do­mini­ums, seniors hous­ing or a pri­vate phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search fa­cil­ity.

Then, in Septem­ber, the com­mit­tee mem­bers made a sur­prise se­lec­tion, choos­ing the Huangs’ once-re­jected bid, through their com­pany En­ter­prise Universal, for the in­nercity hos­pi­tal. Com­mit­tee mem­ber Jon Lord, a for­mer al­der­man and Tory MLA, now says the Huangs won the prop­erty be­cause they made the best un­con­di­tional of­fer.

“It was the high­est cash bid,” Lord said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

On Sept. 23 1997, En­ter­prise Universal signed an agree­ment to buy the old hos­pi­tal for $4.57 mil­lion. Un­der ques­tion­ing in the leg­is­la­ture, for­mer premier Ralph Klein ac­knowl­edged he was con­tacted by the fam­ily about the Holy Cross.

“I re­call vaguely see­ing their pro­posal and say­ing ‘lookit, there’s a process in place. Go to the dis­po­si­tion com­mit­tee . . . . In­ter­est­ing pro­posal’,” Klein said in 2002.

That same year, the Al­berta Lib­er­als re­leased a CHR-com­mis­sioned ap­praisal of the Holy Cross that pegged its value as high as $20.6 mil­lion, but the au­thor­ity’s head de­scribed this as overly op­ti­mistic.

An­other assess­ment sug­gested the prop­erty was worth only $4.5 mil­lion to $9 mil­lion.

Govern­ment of­fi­cials have said most bids for the site were only in the $3-mil­lion range be­cause of the cost of de­mol­ish­ing the build­ings.

Klein said there were no ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties re­lated to the sale of the hos­pi­tal and to sug­gest oth­er­wise was an in­sult to “the com­mu­nity minded peo­ple who served on the dis­po­si­tion com­mit­tee,” in­clud­ing a bishop.

The Huangs, through En­ter­prise Universal and their own pro­fes­sional cor­po­ra­tions, have made sig­nif­i­cant dona­tions to the long-gov­ern­ing Tories. Elec­tions Al­berta records show they do­nated $15,700 to the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives be­tween 1994 and 2000.

Their com­pa­nies also do­nated to Klein’s Cal­gary-El­bow elec­tion cam­paigns, giv­ing more than $4,000 over the course of the 2001 and 2004 provin­cial elec­tions.

In­deed, Cal­gary party in­sid­ers say all three brothers were par­tic­u­larly loyal to Klein, and were reg­ulars at premier’s din­ners and party con­ven­tions. Klein’s mother, Florence Gray, was a res­i­dent at Holy Cross’s seniors fa­cil­ity be­fore her death in Oc­to­ber 2004.

Just this spring, Dr. John Huang — also an eye spe­cial­ist — un­suc­cess­fully ran for vi­cepres­i­dent of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party.

But Peter Huang says he wasn’t per­sonal friends with Klein, say­ing he only knew the for­mer premier from afar.

“I would say at least half a mil­lion peo­ple in Al­berta feel they are friends with the (for­mer) premier,” he said in an in­ter­view, not­ing his com­pany won the prop­erty with the high­est bid.

Klein re­fused re­quests to be in­ter­viewed for this ar­ti­cle.

Al­berta Health Min­is­ter Dave Han­cock said there was no po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the sale of the old hos­pi­tal.

“That’s just a spu­ri­ous sugges­tion,” he said in an in­ter­view this month. “It was a pub­lic process. They sold it for the best deal they could get.”

The Huangs’ pur­chase of the old Holy Cross hos­pi­tal thrust the brothers into a heated po­lit­i­cal de­bate.

But it was Peter Huang’s appointmen­t as the CHR’s top eye sur­geon that made the doc­tor the tar­get of con­flict of in­ter­est al­le­ga­tions in the leg­is­la­ture.

The Huang fam­ily had owned pri­vate clin­ics be­fore the Holy Cross and had pre­vi­ously won a con­tract from the health re­gion to per­form 1,600 cataract surg­eries an­nu­ally.

By 1997, Huang was both the health au­thor­ity’s clin­i­cal chief of oph­thal­mol­ogy and par­towner of a ma­jor pri­vate sur­gi­cal fa­cil­ity that won eye surgery con­tracts from CHR. Both sides in­sist he played no role in the award­ing of th­ese con­tracts.

Within months of his new appointmen­t at CHR, the au­thor­ity was ex­am­in­ing whether Huang was in a con­flict of in­ter­est.

The in­ter­nal probe con­cluded there was no ac­tual con­flict be­cause a com­mit­tee — not the oph­thal­mol­ogy chief — al­lo­cated cataract surg­eries to physi­cians.

The CHR review did find, how­ever, that Huang could ap­point mem­bers of the com­mit­tees and ap­prove its rec­om­men­da­tions, lead­ing the re­port to sug­gest sev­eral changes to “in­crease con­fi­dence” in the al­lo­ca­tion process, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

“There was no ac­tual con­flict, but there was al­ways this per­cep­tion is­sue,” said Jack Davis, chief ex­ec­u­tive of CHR, in an in­ter­view.

The per­cep­tion is­sue, ap­par­ently, took a toll.

In­deed, re­la­tions be­tween CHR and Holy Cross Cen­tre even­tu­ally de­te­ri­o­rated.

In 2005, the brothers be­came so con­cerned they wouldn’t win a CHR con­tract to per­form mi­nor surg­eries, Holy Cross Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices took the health au­thor­ity to court.

Their case wasn’t suc­cess­ful, but doc­u­ments filed in the pro­ceed­ings of­fer a rare glimpse at the rocky re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two sides.

Ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit filed by Ian Huang in the case, Davis called a meet­ing with Peter Huang in 2002, ask­ing for his res­ig­na­tion as oph­thal­mol­ogy chief.

The re­gion’s CEO told Peter Huang that he was an “em­bar­rass­ment to Mr. Davis and the govern­ment since he had a per­ceived con­flict (of) in­ter­est, be­ing an em­ployee of the CHR and an of­fi­cer of the Holy Cross,” the doc­u­ment states.

Peter Huang re­fused to re­sign, say­ing he had no role in award­ing CHR con­tracts and wasn’t in a con­flict, the af­fi­davit said.

He con­tin­ued as the CHR’s chief of eye surgery for four years.

But last year, Davis again asked Huang to re­sign, send­ing the doc­tor a let­ter in June 2006.

The let­ter said Huang was in a “con­flict po­si­tion” be­cause of a CHR by­law pro­hibit­ing those with an in­flu­enc­ing in­ter­est in a pri­vate fa­cil­ity from hold­ing a po­si­tion as a med­i­cal of­fi­cer.

“The ef­fec­tive date of res­ig­na­tion should be no later than July 1, 2006. If such a let­ter is not forth­com­ing, the re­gion will have no op­tion but to im­me­di­ately ter­mi­nate your appointmen­t,” Davis wrote in the let­ter.

That sum­mer, Huang quit the post.

Huang told the Her­ald he left the vol­un­tary po­si­tion be­cause his term was fin­ished and he was too busy with a project he started at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary for train­ing oph­thal­mol­o­gists.

“As re­quired by the Cal­gary Health Re­gion, I de­clared any con­flicts of in­ter­ests on an an­nual ba­sis,” he said in a state­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day.

“I was never in a con­flict of in­ter­est.”

Fur­ther prob­lems be­tween the two par­ties were yet to come.

This spring, CHR of­fi­cials be­came con­cerned about care at Holy Cross’s 42-bed nurs­ing home and al­leged the fa­cil­ity was vi­o­lat­ing fire safety codes.

Holy Cross Cen­tre rep­re­sen­ta­tives said the care at their long-term care home was top notch and they ad­dressed any fire code is­sues, but the CHR moved all 42 res­i­dents to other fa­cil­i­ties in a move the re­gion called un­prece­dented.

Davis in­sists the de­ci­sion to can­cel the long-term care agree­ment was not re­lated to any prob­lems be­tween the two par­ties.

“It’s not so much a re­la­tion­ship is­sue,” he said. “It’s com­pli­ance with stan­dards around spe­cific pro­grams with spe­cific con­tracts.”

Peter Huang said Holy Cross has main­tained a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with CHR, re­gard­less of any con­flict.

“Our goals are the same. We want to look af­ter pa­tients,” he said.

The Huang com­pa­nies’ deal­ings with other lev­els of govern­ment, mean­while, have also had their challenges.

Both the fed­eral and provin­cial gov­ern­ments have awarded some $9.8 mil­lion in grants to build hous­ing pro­jects, such as as­sisted liv­ing spa­ces for seniors, at the old hos­pi­tal.

Many of the pro­jects, how­ever, never went ahead.

One project — a $4.5 mil­lion fed­eral-provin­cial grant for af­ford­able hous­ing awarded to En­ter­prise Universal two years ago — fell vic­tim to the sky­high costs and labour short­age associated with Cal­gary’s boom­ing con­struc­tion mar­ket.

The de­vel­op­ment, in­tended to pro­vide 130 seniors’ hous­ing units, was never com­pleted.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with Holy Cross Cen­tre said Wed­nes­day they’ve paid back all the govern­ment cash.

This week, Holy Cross Manor also paid back the ma­jor­ity of a $2.147-mil­lion provin­cial grant, awarded in 2003, to cre­ate as­sisted liv­ing spa­ces for seniors.

“They’re mov­ing in some other di­rec­tion,” said Ka­t­rina Bluetchen, a spokes­woman with Al­berta Seniors.

De­spite the challenges Holy Cross Cen­tre has faced over its 10-year his­tory, the fa­cil­ity still has lu­cra­tive con­tracts with the pub­lic sector worth mil­lions a year.

In­deed, the clinic re­mains one of the CHR’s top four pri­vate providers of surgery with two on­go­ing con­tracts — one for eye surg­eries and the other for foot op­er­a­tions.

Holy Cross Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices’ oph­thal­mol­ogy agree­ment is worth $3.7 mil­lion in 2007-08, while CHR says the po­di­a­try con­tract is val­ued at $150,000 a year.

Both pri­vate businesses and pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tions con­tinue to lease space at the Holy Cross Cen­tre in­clud­ing Mount Royal Col­lege, CHR and the Al­berta Cancer Board.

The Holy Cross is so busy, an es­ti­mated 1,300 Cal­gar­i­ans visit the site every day for a long list of med­i­cal ser­vices.

The fa­cil­ity’s prime lo­ca­tion, mean­while, has at­tracted in­ter­est from de­vel­op­ers who want to put con­dos on the site. Peter Huang said he has re­sisted the temp­ta­tion be­cause he be­lieves in the health ser­vices his com­pa­nies pro­vide to Cal­gar­i­ans.

“We could blow it all up, knock it all down, put con­dos in and make a for­tune, but that’s not what our in­ter­ests are,” he said.

“We be­lieve this site can be used to ben­e­fit the city. We de­liver so many ser­vices to so many peo­ple,” Huang added.

What­ever the fu­ture of the Holy Cross Cen­tre, the provin­cial govern­ment doesn’t re­gret the past.

Look­ing back on the sale of the hos­pi­tal a decade ago, Health Min­is­ter Dave Han­cock said the fa­cil­ity was closed be­cause of­fi­cials be­lieved they didn’t need the ca­pac­ity and be­cause the Holy Cross was in the wrong lo­ca­tion.

He ar­gues the planned south Cal­gary hos­pi­tal, slated to open in 2011, will bet­ter serve the city’s fast-grow­ing south­ern end.

“I would as­sume they looked at that hos­pi­tal (Holy Cross) and said, ‘Even if we need bed ca­pac­ity, it’s in the wrong place and it doesn’t serve the type of de­liv­ery that we’re go­ing to be mov­ing into,’ ” said Han­cock.

Dr. David Jenkinson isn’t so sure.

The or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon, who now prac­tices in Kentucky, said the sale of the old hos­pi­tal has come at a steep price for Cal­gary’s health sys­tem. He said the city has been try­ing to catch up on beds and op­er­at­ing rooms for a decade.

And govern­ment is now pay­ing more than a bil­lion to build the south hos­pi­tal, he noted.

“It’s up­set­ting that, ba­si­cally, govern­ment got away with it. They made this enor­mous mis­take, which they were warned about over and over and over,” said Jenkinson.

“But no one ever paid any po­lit­i­cal price for it.”

Colleen De Neve, Cal­gary Her­ald

Frank Hunt helped auc­tion equip­ment at the old hos­pi­tal.

Ted Rhodes, Cal­gary Her­ald

Sur­geon Dr. Peter Huang says surg­eries at Holy Cross Cen­tre are cost-ef­fec­tive.

Cal­gary Her­ald Ar­chive

Lauren Mor­ri­son re­cov­ers from surgery at Holy Cross Cen­tre.

Cal­gary Her­ald Ar­chive

Cal­gary Her­ald Ar­chive

For­mer premier Ralph Klein says there were no ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties re­lated to the hos­pi­tal’s sale.

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