The diagnosis is in: The provincial government needs to move ahead with a Red Deer hospital expansion, Premier Rachel Notley said during a stop at the Advocate newsroom Wednesday.
A $1-million needs assessment already makes a strong case “that Red Deer is growing very, very fast and that the pressures on the hospital are not acceptable, beyond what (health workers) are already trying to shoulder,” Notley said.
If re-elected this spring, she pledged her New Democrat government “will be moving ahead to continue funding for a major hospital redevelopment…”
Since Red Deer hospital is the third busiest in the province, “it’s fundamental” that Red Deer-area residents have a full range of health-care services, the premier added.
In the last budget, the hospital received $1 million to make a two-year business plan. Notley said in order to “get things moving” on the hospital expansion, the project would advance into a more detailed exercise.
The project was recently put back on the provincial infrastructure priority list, and the premier confirmed it would be one of the projects selected for more funding in the 2019 provincial budget.
The cardiac catheterization lab is likely to be part of it, she added. Local physicians have also been lobbying for 96 more beds, three more operating rooms,and 18 more emergency room stretchers.
Notley had no dollar figures available on Wednesday, saying this would require input from Alberta Infrastructure, but said the development study for planning and engineering would “go beyond the funds already allocated.”
Notley said, “You will see it reflected in the budget” — if, in fact, her New Democrats will be presenting a 2019 provincial budget.
The premier declined to answer the question the opposition has been pressing her on — whether the spring election will be called before or after the budget is announced. She would only say it can be called between March 1 and May 30.
Notley dropped by the Advocate while in Red Deer checking out preparations for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. She plans to attend the opening ceremony at the Centrium on Friday evening, and will also be in Red Deer meeting with participants and volunteers Saturday.
She commended the community for all of the local efforts taken to set the stage for the large-scale sporting event that has been compared to the Olympics in terms of athlete numbers. Organizers believe it could draw up to 20,000 visitors to the city.
“I think it’s super exciting. On behalf of the Alberta government, I’d like to say congratulations to the athletes and those supporting the athletes,” said Notley, who believes visitors will be impressed by what Red Deer has to offer.
“I believe these will be the best Canada Games we’ve seen yet.”
Notley noted the province’s financial contributions, including the $80-million Gaetz Avenue interchange, $50 million towards building the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, in partnership with Red Deer College, and also getting the RDC residence build, which will serve as an athletes’ village during the games.
With the falling world price of oil causing a harder economy in Alberta, some people were demanding the province pull back on such funding, she said, but her government recognized there is “bigger incremental value” in supporting communities and creating infrastructure jobs.