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A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Aug. 9, 2023, for the new Health and Social Innovation Centre at the University of New Brunswick's Saint John campus. Image: Brad Perry

Work begins on UNB’s Health and Social Innovation Centre

By Brad Perry Aug 9, 2023 | 5:37 PM

It is being described as a transformational project for New Brunswick’s health-care sector.

Work is underway on the Health and Social Innovation Centre at the University of New Brunswick’s Saint John campus.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new three-and-a-half-storey building was held on Wednesday afternoon.

The new 65,000-square-foot facility will be located on the site of the former Ward Chipman Library, which was recently torn down.

Once complete, it will offer teaching and research facilities, as well as informal learning and study spaces.

Dr. Petra Hauf, vice-president Saint John at UNB, said the centre will be crucial for the university and the province.

“The main reason why it’s so crucial is because of the integrated approach looking into health — the health sector, health care delivery and health management policies — all of those areas that are so important to improve our health care system,” Hauf told reporters following the groundbreaking ceremony.

“It has a combination of new academic programs that are educating the next generation of leaders in our health sector as well as research that is looking at new approaches and best practices.”

This centre will be home to a new four-year interdisciplinary undergraduate program in health as well as graduate programs.

Hauf said they expect to welcome 500 additional students to the university once all of the programs are in operation.

Dr. Petra Hauf, vice-president Saint John at the University of New Brunswick, delivers remarks on Aug. 9, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

The Health and Social Innovation Centre will be the hub for the Integrated Health Initiative, a program designed to transform health care through education, research, partnerships, innovation and knowledge transfer.

It will also be the foundation for the proposed Health and Technology District in Saint John, a leading hub for digital health and technology in Atlantic Canada.

Hauf said fundraising efforts are now underway at the university level to raise $20 million.

It began in earnest on Wednesday with a $1 million donation from The Pannell Family Foundation.

“The fundraising is for the completion of the building, as well as for our bursaries and scholarships and for the research chairs that we want to get into the building,” she said.

“Of course, we have a gap in the funding for the building, mainly because of the rise in construction costs.”

The centre was initially expected to cost around $38 million to build, but Hauf said they are now looking at a price tag of around $50 million.

The provincial and federal governments announced a combined $27 million in funding last December, leaving the university to come up with the rest.

Hauf said they hope to have the Health and Social Innovation Centre open in January 2025.


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