CTV News has learned exclusive details about the plans for major changes in Halifax-area hospitals.

New operating theatres and about 200 more beds are planned for the Dartmouth General Hospital, while an expansion will also take place at the Halifax Infirmary to help replace beds and operating rooms at the Victoria General site.

A Halifax company has been awarded a $1-million contract to prepare the preliminary designs and cost estimates. The Capital District Health Authority was given approval by the province to award the contract last week.

The approval comes 11 months after former Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald announced the Victoria General site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre would have to come down and be replaced.

Shauna McMahon, the director of infrastructure at the Capital District Health Authority, gave a general description of the bed tower the health authority wants designed above the emergency department at the Halifax Infirmary.

“That bed tower would see 150 beds and there would be 16 operating rooms,” says McMahon.

The proposed tower is five storeys with a mechanical floor – one for operating rooms and three for patients.

Space for expansion already exists on the vacant fifth floor of the Dartmouth General Hospital.

“We’re looking at expanding to 50 beds over there in the in-patient areas and we would add eight OR suites,” says McMahon.

She says the expansion would not be new capacity, rather replacing existing facilities at the Victoria General site when it closes.

When - and if - the expansions are approved, the community must cover 25 per cent of the costs while the government will fund the rest.

However, Opposition parties are skeptical about the provincial government’s priorities.

“They need to make a decision now,” says Tory MLA Chris d’Entremont. “Are their priorities health care and education, or buying land for Nova Scotia?”

“That’s why it’s so important we get back to balance, so that we continue to have these opportunities to invest,” says Health and Wellness Minister Dave Wilson.

Both the Conservatives and Liberals agree the old hospitals have to be replaced and Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil says his focus is on design.

“What is the model that we’re trying to build? Is it the same building? Or is there a new delivery model that the government has in place that would improve access to health care?”

The design and cost estimates for the expansion are expected to be completed by the end of May.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant