MONTREAL - Construction on the McGill University Superhospital, as well as the new Montreal Children's and Shriners Hospitals, began this past summer in the Glen Yards.

But the long-awaited French language CHUM hospital, first proposed in the mid-1990s and projected to be completed in 2003, is now facing even more delays and a massive $300 million increase in its cost estimate.

However, Quebec's Treasury Board President Michèle Courchesne says the comparison between the two is unfair.

"The construction is totally different," she said Monday at a news conference to explain the cost overruns and delays. "The (McGill Superhospital) is in the middle of the vacant (lot), the CHUM is right in the middle of downtown. I mean, the complexity right there is different."

Health Minister Yves Bolduc announced Monday that the estimated cost of the project has grown to $2.089 billion, even though construction has yet to begin.

The size of the superhospital has also increased, to more than 260,000 square metres (2.7 million square feet).

With the added delays, officials now anticipate that the first phase of construction will end in 2016, and the entire hospital will be finished in 2019.

Bolduc said, however, that the CHUM will be able to see its first patients in 2015.

That is only one year after the projected completion of the Glen Yards hospital project, Bolduc points out.

"In four years," he said, "we're going to have two of the best hospitals in the world."

That's assuming the groundbreaking on the CHUM project takes place on schedule.

The CHUM, like the MUHC project, will be a public-private partnership.

The deadline for companies to make bids on the tender is June 2011, and a selection will be made by March 2012.

Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail's health reporter, has been covering this epic saga since it was first floated in the mid 90s. He says politics are the main reason construction has been delayed so many times, but the amount of time the issue has been on the front burner remains baffling all the same.

"It doesn't take a long time to build a hospital," Picard said. "It's a square building with lots of rooms in it. It's not the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal took 22 years to build. It didn't take as long as the superhospital."