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UCP are delaying completion of Red Deer hospital expansion, says NDP leader Rachel Notley

A government document shows 2032 as completion date for construction
NDP Opposition leader Rachel Notley said the UCP’s are planning a two-year delay to the Red Deer hospital project. She spoke in Red Deer with Red Deer South NDP candidate Michelle Baer (left) and Red Deer North candidate Jaelene Tweedle. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN).

The Alberta government maintains the Red Deer hospital expansion project will still be completed on time in 2030-31, despite a document suggesting otherwise.

NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley held a press conference in Red Deer on Thursday to say Central Albertans will face a two-year delay for the completion of the Red Deer hospital expansion.

The NDP found UCP government documents that indicate a 2032 completion date for construction when former Alberta UCP premier Jason Kenny had said while announcing the $1.8 billion project last year that it would be finished by 2030-31.

“The UCP has failed to deliver substantial progress on Red Deer hospital in the four years they have been in office,” said Notley. “Now they have quietly delayed the project even further.”

The document she was referring to is a Request for Proposals for consultant services for the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre redevelopment. The closing date for proposals is Feb. 13.

This document shows hospital design will be started in 2023. No dates were provided for the start of construction, but it’s supposed to end in 2032, with post-construction work continuing until 2033.

However Alberta Infrastructure spokesman Benji Smith responded: “The 2032-2033 date referred to … is the total contract period for a prime consultant. It’s standard industry practice to retain a prime consultant beyond completion for complex projects like the Red Deer Hospital, to address any warranty issues, minor deficiency completions, and to support the building handover and commissioning.

“I am pleased to confirm that this project is still on track for its intended completion in 2030/31,” said Smith.

He noted it was the NDP that failed to prioritize the Red Deer Hospital project, removing it from the priority list for capital investment in 2018.

Alberta Health Services had then recommended other priorities, said Notley. “To be frank, it took us a couple years to get it back on the active list,” she added, but by 2019 it was clear pressures were being keenly felt at Red Deer hospital and were growing.

She said the NDP has been pushing to make the Red Deer hospital expansion project a priority since 2019.

Notley also raised concerns on Thursday that the government is looking at building the hospital expansion as a P-3 project, involving private investment — even though the P-3 method has resulted in problems and delays with various school projects.

But Smith said the government hasn’t yet decided whether the hospital expansion will be handled as a P-3 partnership or not. “We haven’t determined the business case yet.”

Health Minister Jason Copping, who was in Red Deer meeting with representatives of a personal care home for seniors, indicated the hospital remains a priority.

“You can let people know, rest assured, we’re committed to expanding capacity in Red Deer, committed to building the hospital. We have the funding allocated to it and we’re going to keep going until we get the project done.”

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, who was with Copping, called the government’s $1.8 billion commitment a “transformative investment.”

Supporters of the hospital, including doctors, nurses and various city officials, have been lobbying for an expansion to the hospital for more than a decade. A need has been demonstrated for more patient beds, more surgical suites, more Emergency Room capacity and the installation of a cardiac catheterization lab to save lives from heart attacks.

Alberta Infrastructure plans to host a public open house about the hospital project on Jan. 26 in the lobby of Red Deer’s provincial building, nearly a year after the hospital expansion funding was announced last February.

— With files from Paul Cowley

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