Plans to expand the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre — a project that should have started construction last year — are still in the early stages, according to Alberta Infrastructure.
Just a few short months ago, Premier Jason Kenney said that in a few months Red Deer may finally get a look at the plans for the project that hospital staff say was in desperate need years ago.
An update on Wednesday from Alberta Infrastructure said the project is undergoing functional programming to assess current and future needs of patients and staff, which will be followed next year by identifying which medical programs will be needed most in Red Deer and the surrounding area.
Mayor Ken Johnston was absolutely astounded the project has not progressed further.
“I am deeply disappointed that this is the best that our community can get today,” said Johnston who was almost left speechless with shock at the news.
“Do we not have that information abundantly clear by now? We know what our current and future needs of patients are, and we know what programs will be needed most in Red Deer.”
He said the community has been waiting so long and is in such dire need of not only expansion, but more staff right now to reduce emergency wait times and provide the needed surgeries and programs.
Alberta Infrastructure said identifying what is needed at the hospital will include meeting with the community, contractors, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and experts.
“The experts are the people that deliver the front line service, and that’s the group that has been righteously crying out for support, facilities, staffing, the basic needs to run a health facility. What we’re morphing into at the hospital now is a third world health delivery, and I’m astounded,” said Johnston who vowed city council will continue to aggressively pursue hospital improvements for citizens.
Construction of the first phase of the project, which received $100 million in 2020, was originally supposed to begin in 2021.
Earlier this year it was announced that a total of $1.8 billion would be put towards the eight-year expansion and redevelopment starting with a $193-million investment over the next three years.
Alberta Infrastructure press secretary Chloe Carr said based on the feedback to identify medical programs, a construction schedule and a detailed budget will be developed.
“This project will provide specialized healthcare, state-of-the-art medical equipment, and it will increase the capacity to care for more patients. Red Deer residents have given valuable feedback about what their community needs, and our government is proud to help make this much-needed project a reality,” said Carr in a statement.
Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan said while he was excited about the $1.8-billion investment in the hospital, he was also not satisfied with the pace of the project.
“I know that COVID did slow things down, and that’s fair. But the reality is we pay a lot of money to AHS and they are under-delivering,” Stephan said.
He said if this was a private-sector initiative, it would happen quicker and cheaper. There needs to be more accountability. AHS has not been treating Red Deer and central Alberta fairly since before the UCP was elected.
“AHS needs to be a good steward ensuring the resources are there and the professionals are there to meet the health needs of central Albertans because of course this won’t be built overnight and they have not done a great job. There’s room for improvement,” Stephan said.