The NDP would accelerate efforts to expand and redevelop Red Deer hospital unlike the UCP who only put $320.6 million towards the project over the next three years, says NDP leader Rachel Notley.
Construction of the $1.8-billion project is supposed to start in about 2027-28 and be finished by 2030-31.
“The amount of money dedicated in the budget frankly does not say to me that they are on track to even finish at their revised timeline,” Notley said on Thursday in Red Deer.
In early 2020, then-premier Jason Kenney announced $100 million in capital funding for the first phase of the project and pledged construction work would begin in 2021.
“I join with all people in Red Deer in the disappointment to see that there doesn’t seem to be any concrete plans embedded in the budget to accelerate the plan even though there has been some talk to that effect.”
She said while it is true that the project was not high on the priority list for the NDP when it was elected, the NDP did commit to it by early 2019.
“Had we been re-elected, I can guarantee you without a shadow of a doubt, that we would be talking about grand opening celebrations. And there would be clear concrete demonstration of a project well on its way to being finished,” said Notley, adding that under the NDP’s leadership, shovels were in the ground for the new Calgary Cancer Centre in 2016 and seven years later work is almost complete.
“We will actually get the project done, and we will accelerate it and there will be very clear process unlike what we’ve seen over the last four years since the UCP committed to it. This has been going on for far too long and it’s time to get that work done.”
Red Deer doctors are calling for a bridging plan to alleviate pressures on the emergency department, surgeries and patient beds while waiting for construction to be complete.
Notley said the NDP would sit down with doctors and find out what could be done in a cost-effective and interim way to expand services.
“I also know they want to be very much a part of the planning of the long-term renovation and redevelopment of the hospital so that’s another place where we want to work with them.”
Current expansion plans call for a cardiac catheterization lab, increasing the patient bed count to 540 from 370, and adding three new operating rooms to bring the total to 14 which some local surgeons say won’t be enough.
Norm McDougall, of Red Deer, said when he had a heart attack in September 2021, he was given a clot buster treatment at Red Deer’s hospital before traveling by ambulance to an Edmonton hospital.
“That was all they could do for me at our hospital. They don’t have a cardiac cath lab,” McDougall said.
He said hospital staff were waiting for him when he arrived in Edmonton and the procedure to find the blockage and put in a stent only took about 20 minutes. Another stent was put in the next day with the same procedure.
He said two weeks before his heart attack, his wife ended up in Red Deer’s emergency department and later needed surgery. In 2022 he had knee surgery in Red Deer so they are both familiar with the local hospital.
“The staff is just fantastic, but they are just run off their feet. The building itself seems to be extremely overwhelmed and run down and needs serious work.”