Alberta’s NDP is concerned that Red Deer hospital’s redevelopment and expansion project is only ‘partially approved’ according to AHS’s 2020 Multi-Year Health Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission.
“When I hear AHS use the term partially approved, it suggests to me they are unsure about the level of commitment that Jason Kenney and the UCP government have to construction at this hospital,” said NDP health critic David Shepherd.
“The premier made a promise last year. He said the bottom line is that construction work on expanding and refurbishing the hospital would begin this year, in 2021. Yet we have AHS saying we don’t know that this actually has the government’s approval.”
The July 2020 infrastructure report showed the needs assessment was complete for Red Deer hospital, and the business case was underway.
The report said Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre was not meeting AHS performance targets for emergency room wait times, length of stay, and had longer wait times for surgery. Medical beds were consistently “well over 100 per cent occupancy for a number of years.”
The hospital was experiencing significant growth in acuity as its role as a regional referral centre increases. Tertiary services in Calgary and Edmonton also referred patients sooner to the hospital after treatment which increases inpatient demand at the site and in ambulatory care spaces.
In February 2020, Kenney pledged $100 million as part of the first phase of improvements at the hospital. The province has since said construction was expected to begin in fall 2021.
Shepherd said he will look for a commitment to the project in the provincial budget later this month, but he would call on the premier to confirm his commitment now.
“I recognize that provincially we are facing some real economic challenges on a number of fronts. But it’s worth noting that Jason Kenney was certainly willing to gamble $1.5 billion on a pipeline that had a very long shot of succeeding based on the re-election of president Trump.”
If the province has that kind of cash for a long shot to create jobs, it should be willing to put a smaller, yet significant amount, towards actual construction jobs that would provide such a clear benefit to the people of Red Deer and central Alberta, Shepherd said.
He said this government has proven to be very disappointing in its commitments to Red Deer and region, like ignoring Red Deer’s concerns about ambulance dispatch consolidation, standing in the way of Red Deer College obtaining university status, and ongoing attacks on rural family doctors.
“It seems that Jason Kenney and the UCP have very much decided that the people of Red Deer should be satisfied with second best on so many different fronts.”
A statement from the office of Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said that funding has been approved to begin expansion of health care services at Red Deer’s hospital.
“Alberta’s government is determining an overall solution for redevelopment of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre including all future funding requirements,” said the statement.
“The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre is the busiest hospital outside of Edmonton and Calgary and has operated beyond its design capacity for many years.”