Repairs to a closed section of the Royal University Hospital (RUH) parkade are expected to move ahead his winter.

“On September 1, we went to market to request proposals from contractors with expertise in repairing this type of parking structure. We hope to have contracts in place later this year in order to begin repair work this winter,” says Marcel Nobert, acting vice-president for Corporate Services for Saskatoon Health Region. “We know it has been challenging parking at Royal University Hospital and we are excited to take this important next step in improving this for our patients and families, along with our staff and physicians.”

Portions within the 1984-built parkade structure were closed as a precautionary measure in May 2013 for testing and analysis as a result of initial inspections related to Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan (CHS) site preparation construction.

A closed section of the RUH parkade

Portions within the 1984-built parkade structure were closed as a precautionary measure in May 2013 due to early warning signs of structural issues. Those sections will now be under repair for the next couple of years.

“There were early warning signs that we may have some issues with some of the tension cables and the slab beneath the surface membrane,” explains Nobert. “At that time, we had called in experts to analyze the situation and they recommended we close those sections to ensure public safety, and develop a repair plan so that the problems didn’t get worse.”

Currently, over 300 stalls on Levels 1, 2 and 3 of the parkade are closed. Temporary reinforcements have been put in place on those levels to help reinforce the vertical structure of the facility. Due to these closures, along with changes to parkade entrances given site preparation work for CHS, traditional patient and staff parking areas were shuffled, with some staff parking being relocated off-site in order to preserve patient and family parking.

The Health Region has used the time since the closure working through expert advice and analyzing options for the parkade, which included an option for tearing down and rebuilding the structure as well as a phased in repair and maintenance plan option.

“It has taken us a long time to get to this point, but we wanted to ensure we had second opinions on our options and cost models so we could make the right decision,” says Nobert.

The decision has been made to pursue a repair and maintenance plan financed by a loan. This will mean repairing cables, reinforcing concrete, and replacing the surface membrane. The work will be completed by various contractors with early estimates putting total project costs ranging from approximately $12 million to $15 million.

“The 1984 portion of the parkade still has serviceable life left in it, if we do these repairs. Knocking it down and rebuilding would be unnecessary, complicated and significantly more expensive,” says Nobert.

After a 30-day posting, the team will evaluate the proposals received, and make a recommendation for the successful contractor. Initial estimates have the repairs taking two years to complete; however, the Region will have a more concrete timeline after the contract has been awarded.

“We’re hoping there will be significant activity in the spring, with some prep work done over the winter months,” Nobert noted.

Together with the CHS project team, a site management plan will be developed. There will be some congestion in the general area, but every effort will be made to minimize the disruption to traffic flow.At the end of this first phase of repairs at RUH, the division between staff and physician parking, and patient and family parking spaces within the parkade will be re-evaluated

Repairing the 1984 section of the RUH parkade is just the first step in the Region’s multiphase parkade repair plan across the city. The 1971 section of the RUH parkade also has repairs that need to occur, though not as critical or on a scale as large as what the 1984 section needs. Some minor, high-priority repairs are already planned for the 1971 section, but major work will not begin until work to the 1984 section is well underway.

Repairs to staff parkades at Saskatoon City Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital are also part of the long term plan. RUH’s 1984 section of the parkade was put first in the plan because it needed the most work, and had the most stalls affected, including public parking.

“We are working through cost models and timing on the next phases of the parking strategy ,” Nobert said.

Health care funding cannot be used to cover parking expenses, including repairs and maintenance. Those expenses have to be covered by the parking fees charged by the Health Region. The financing plan for the 1984 RUH parking structure repairs was recently approved by Ministry of Health.

“The plan is to pay off the loan over an approximately 30-year period, but that may change based on the financing we secure. We will also be looking for the lowest interest rate possible,” said Nobert. “We will use parkade revenue to pay back the loan and maintain the structure. “

Patient and family parking rates will not increase with the financing plan. However, there will likely be small, incremental increases in in staff and physician rates across the Region over time to finance all our parkade repairs and fund on-going maintenance.”

“Saskatoon parking structures continue to be monitored and inspected on a regular basis. We have no safety concerns with the structures right now,” says Nobert. “But we also know these repairs are needed, and we need to get started and put some investment back into our parking structures today.”