Alberta Health Services pares down infrastructure wish-list

Alberta Health Services has decided to pare down its infrastructure demands, handing the province a shorter list that emphasizes a handful of smaller, lower-cost projects.

The health authority’s “Capital Submission” is prepared once a year as part of the government’s process for determining which infrastructure projects to fund.

The list has typically featured at least 20 projects ranked as urgent priorities, including a number of expensive, high-profile developments.

Last year’s list, for example, called for redevelopments of the Royal Alexandra and Misericordia hospitals, while past lists have included a new tower for the Red Deer Regional Hospital and construction of a handful of rural hospitals. None of those projects have been approved.

The latest AHS submission has just nine projects, none of which is estimated to cost more than $125 million.

The health authority said it was asked to scale back its requests this year to reflect that the NDP government recently committed to a handful of costly health infrastructure projects.

Those include the new Calgary Cancer Centre ($1.4 billion), an Edmonton suburban hospital (potentially up to $2 billion) and a new Edmonton lab facility ($325 million or more) — all of which will eat up much of the province’s infrastructure budget for years to come.

“Alberta Health encouraged AHS to submit a succinct list of projects … that promote the transition of care into community settings or are deemed critically urgent,” the health authority said in a statement Friday.

The new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital is going to cost a lot more than first thought and its opening was delayed until 2019. JOCELYN TURNER / DAILY HERALD-TRIBUNE

The new list has already generated controversy in Red Deer, where residents have been clamouring for a $750-million hospital expansion that would include a cardiac catheterization lab. In a Facebook post, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman acknowledged the city’s two NDP MLAs, Barb Miller and Kim Schreiner, had expressed disappointment at being left off the AHS list.

It’s unclear what the reaction will be among rural communities looking for a new hospital that have been featured on the priority list in past years, including Wainwright, Beaverlodge and Cardston.

The nine projects on the list this year:

• Royal Alexandra energy centre expansion ($65 million to $75 million): The project calls for the existing 1986-built facility to be doubled in size. AHS says more power is needed to accommodate upcoming and future redevelopments of CapitalCare Norwood, the Glenrose and Royal Alex hospital.

• Medical device reprocessing facilities ($93 million): This project would involve eight hospitals most in need of upgrades to units that sterilize scopes, surgical tools and other instruments. The sites include the Peter Lougheed and Foothills hospitals in Calgary, and the Northern Lights hospital in Fort McMurray.

• Kitchen redevelopment, Foothills Medical Centre ($62 million): An overhaul of the kitchen has been a top AHS priority for years, but has yet to receive any funding. Since the kitchen must stay open during renovations, the project is expected to take more than five years.

• New patient ward, Chinook Regional Hospital ($32 million): The hospital in Lethbridge has 6,800 square metres of unfinished space. This project would create one or two inpatient wards that would add at least 30 beds.

• Renovations, Peter Lougheed Centre ($97 million): This project would complete the final two phases of the east-wing expansion, which would involve a bigger emergency department, re-location of the lab and development of a new mental health uni.

• Laundry modernizations, Lethbridge and Ponoka (no cost given): Several AHS laundry facilities across the province are in poor condition. This project would overhaul two big hubs, and allow Lethbridge to take over laundry duties from a problematic facility in Medicine Hat.

• Renovations, Rockyview Hospital ($30 million to $40 million): Plans for this project call for shelled-in space to be developed into a new 20-bed combined intensive care unit and coronary care unit.

• Calgary cyclotron ($36.3 million): AHS says development of a cyclotron near the new Calgary Cancer Centre would ramp up production of radioactive isotopes needed for PET-CT scans.

• Brain centre, University of Alberta ($125 million): The University Hospital Foundation has championed this project — and even brought in Wayne Gretzky to help with fundraising — which would create new patient care areas and a new neuro ICU.

Leave a Reply