Red Deerians are thrilled about the province’s decision to put $1.8 billion towards redevelopment and expansion of Red Deer’s hospital, but some wonder if there’s room to grow at the current site.
On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced the eight-year expansion will start with a $193-million investment over the next three years and that will add 200 new in-patient beds, increasing the hospital’s capacity to 570 beds.
Former city councillor Buck Buchanan said neighbours near Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre have been moaning for a long time about parking issues created by the hospital, and renovations to older buildings can run into problems.
The hospital project includes three new operating rooms to increase surgical capacity to 14, but he said doctors have been calling for more.
“If you build from the ground up, you can build whatever is needed,” Buchanan said.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme said that three new operating rooms will not be enough.
“We need three more ORs now, three more by 2025 and three more by 2030,” Wolstenholme said.
But the doctor said a new hospital is not the answer because it would create too much duplication of resources.
Former city councillor Frank Wong has advocated for a second hospital for years.
“To keep adding on doesn’t make sense. There’s no room there, and during construction there will be less room,” said Wong who was also a planner for the city.
He said by the time construction is finished, demand will again exceed capacity. Another hospital could contain extra space for future expansion, and it could be built closer to local highways to better service patients outside the city.
“I just think that will be better for us and for the province,” Wong said.
City councillor Michael Dawe, who was chair of the former Red Deer Regional Hospital Board that was in place prior to creation of regional councils to advise Alberta Health Services (AHS), said the funding is wonderful news.
“We’re talking about a major increase in capacity. Then comes the question if you’re building that many beds, where exactly are you going to locate them. It is true the spot they’re at is getting very cramped,” Dawe said.
He said AHS hasn’t had any appetite to build more hospitals in communities and doubts that will change.
“I just really don’t see a full-fledged, total-service, second hospital built on another site in Red Deer.”
But AHS may discover a smaller satellite facility will be necessary to accommodate the some part of project, he said.