Red Deer hospital will be expanded upwards, with floors added to hold more beds, while outpatient services will be housed in a separate building nearby.
Alberta Infrastructure released the first concrete vision for what an expanded Red Deer hospital will look like on Thursday, indicating the existing building would grow vertically.
“Current construction plans are to add additional floors to the hospital that will house additional beds,” states an email sent by Benji Smith, press secretary to Alberta’s infrastructure minister.
“Also, a new building will be constructed to accommodate Ambulatory Care Services on the hospital site near the hospital building on what is currently a gravel parking lot,” the email added.
Alberta Infrastructure is sticking to its previously announced timeline, saying the project’s completion is expected in 2030/31, “which we are still on schedule to meet.”
This lag-time gravely concerns local doctors and other members of the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta. “We can’t wait for a decade” for more hospital beds and expanded surgical programs, Dr. Kym Jim.
While pleased that Alberta Infrastructure has now publicly released its general plans for an on-site hospital expansion, with an additional building to provide some out-patient services, he said a task force should be immediately assembled to come up with plans for how the hospital can better deliver health care services in the interim.
It should be “very, very concerning” to central Albertans, who are sometimes waiting 18 hours for emergency services, and having surgeries postponed or moved to other facilities that there are no plans to alleviate hospital deficiencies in the shorter term, said Jim.
“It speaks to serious problems in planning health care delivery when it leads us to this.”
Waiting until 2031 to get more beds means the largest, busiest acute care hospital outside of Calgary and Edmonton will not have gained any patient beds for 30 years, said Jim.
“Central Albertans cannot wait for another decade to get things done.”
A spokesperson for the provincial government was not immediately available to respond to these concerns.
But Mayor Ken Johnston, who met with Alberta Infrastructure minister Nathan Neudorf on Wednesday, said he was assured that as each floor is added to the hospital or its adjoining cancer centre, it would be completed and opened for patient use — before work on the next floor is completed.
As other hospital renovations are done in stages — whether it’s expanding operating rooms, or on the emergency department — they will also become operational, so Central Albertans will not have to wait to 2031 to feel some benefit, he added.
Johnston was not told when the first additional floor of the hospital would become operational.
But the mayor asked Neudorf if he would come to Red Deer early in the New Year to be transparent to central Albertans about how this large project would unfold — and he believes the minister was open to the idea.
“Minister Neudorf gets the importance of this to central Alberta and I would fully expect him and his team to come down and do a town hall.”
Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are responsible for ensuring Albertans healthcare needs are considered in the project. Alberta Infrastructure is responsible for co-ordinating construction of the facility expansion and that it will fit within the approved funding of $1.8 billion.
“Our next steps are to have all parties complete, review, and approve the Functional Program Report, as well as procure a designer in early 2023 to complete the design process,” states the email sent by Smith.
Alberta Infrastructure is also working with the City of Red Deer and other parties, “to ensure increased transparency and communication on project progress in the future.”
At this time, project officials are doing “functional programming,” an early planning process that describes the existing spaces within the facility and is a precursor to a more detailed design plan.