Information shared on the progress of Red Deer hospital’s $1.8-billion expansion was too little, and construction will come too late, for some concerned citizens.
On Thursday night, a public information session was held in the lobby of the Red Deer Provincial Building to provide a status overview of the project. Construction for the 10-year project won’t start until about 2026 or 2027 with the aim to be completed by 2030, 2031 or sooner.
“I think most of the people were pretty disappointed to hear there won’t even be shovels in the ground for another three or four years,” said Harley Hay who attended the session that attracted a standing-room only crowd of about 50 in the small lobby.
“Based on past experience, I don’t have a lot of faith in it moving ahead smoothly.”
Hay, who is a member of the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta (SHECA), said central Albertans have been kept in the dark for too long and while it was nice to see some basic drawings on paper, he wanted a detailed timeline which was missing from the presentation.
Minister of Infrastructure and Deputy Premier Nathan Neudorf said the biggest message the government wanted to express during the session was that “construction of a healthcare facility is complex” when compared to schools or other public buildings.
“There are complexities that most of the general public doesn’t understand and it’s difficult to explain to them because it’s tedious and very time consuming,” said Neudorf to media at the presentation.
Red Deer NDP candidates said they were shocked by Neudorf’s arrogance.
“For the minister to imply that residents wouldn’t understand the complexities of its construction and the delay is a slap in the face. The UCP should be taking ownership of the delay and committing to finishing the work instead of making up excuses and avoiding responsibility,” said NDP candidate for Red Deer-South Michelle Baer in a statement.
Mayor Ken Johnston said he too has been equally discouraged with the pace of the project, but the public session was an excellent starting point.
“We can’t change the past. At this juncture we do now have far more specifics than we had even a few months ago,” Johnston said about plan that shows the location of added floors and a new ambulatory care building at the hospital.
He said the commitment to the project is firm from both the UCP and the NDP so regardless of the results of the May provincial election, there is no fear it will disappear from the capital plan.
“The business case has been done and it’s been validated. The functional programming has been done and it’s been validated. The request for proposals for design is closing in six weeks, long before the election. So I have every confidence this project will transcend the election process and continue to be on track,” Johnston said.
Hay said the project’s progress must be closely watched in case it stalls and SHECA will step up communications to keep the public informed.
“We want to keep feet to the fire.”
But in the meantime, he said Alberta Health Services must stop ignoring the needs of central Albertans by addressing Red Deer’s overburdened hospital and ensuring proper staffing, he added.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre