Alberta’s NDP is demanding the United Conservative Party government reverse its “broken promise” and fund the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre expansion.
“I was very surprised and disappointed when he (Premier Jason Kenney) produced his capital plan just this February and there was only $5 million in it for this year,” said Rachel Notley, leader of the official opposition.
“Let’s be really clear about this, you cannot start construction on the expansion of a major hospital with $5 million. Promise made, promise broken by Jason Kenney.”
Notley and infrastructure critic Thomas Dang held a press conference in front of the hospital Friday afternoon.
Dang called the Red Deer hospital “a crucial health care facility” for all central Albertans.
He said the city and the region have outgrown the hospital.
“We need more capacity in the emergency department, we need specialized care, like cardiac catheterization, and now more than ever, we understand how important critic hospital capacity is,” Dang said, adding the UCP government has failed to deliver on its promise of expansion.
Notley said she was “puzzled” after seeing new facilities receive funding on the government’s budget.
“For instance, there is almost four times as much money in this year’s budget for a community health centre in La Crete in northern Alberta as there is for the Red Deer hospital.
“Now don’t get me wrong, I want the people of La Crete to have great health care, but that project was not on anybody’s priority list last year, while the need for an expanded Red Deer hospital has been undeniable for a long time.”
Last month, the provincial government said the previously promised $100-million for the first-phase of the Red Deer hospital expansion is coming, even though the timeline is unknown.
“To be clear, Alberta’s government remains committed to the full $100 million earmarked for the Red Deer Hospital expansion project,” Alberta’s Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said March 4.
Only $59 million of the promised amount is pledged over the next three years, according to the 2021 budget.
Panda did not explain over how many years the $100-million would be distributed to an expansion project that has been sought for over a decade. But he added that Alberta Infrastructure, in conjunction with Alberta Health Services, is doing important planning work on the hospital.
“There have been slight delays in this planning process,” he added, because of the ongoing pandemic.
Red Deer’s MLAs Adriana LaGrange and Jason Stephan told the Advocate in March that they were assured that the business case for the hospital project will be completed this spring, with construction beginning later this year.