Royal Alex renovation won’t be cheap and won’t be quick: AHS

EDMONTON — A complete overhaul of the Royal Alexandra Hospital campus would be a historically expensive project, costing $4.5 billion, according to Alberta Health Services.

“That’s a big number by itself, but…the project itself is staged over a long period of time and phased over a long period,” said David Mador, vice president of AHS and the medical director for northern Alberta.

The work would have to be done in four phases over 16 years. The first two phases would take 10 years.

“As time goes on and the standards for building acute care hospitals go up, the costs of building the hospitals today is so much higher than it used to be,” explained Mador.

“I think we’ve got to start wrapping our heads around numbers like this because it is costly to build hospitals in the modern era.”

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The overhaul would include the demolition or major renovation of nine of the 20 buildings across the three sites.

“It is a massive hospital build,” he said. “It would rival the recent major hospitals built in Montreal, for instance.”

READ MORE: ‘Essential’ to replace aging Royal Alex, hospital foundation says

The plan calls for the construction of an 800 bed Acute Care Tower, construction of a stand-alone Child and Adolescent Mental Health building, and new facilities for the Glenrose Rehabitation Hospital and Capitalcare Norwood.

A master plan for the hospital should be complete in November. The plan will ensure the Edmonton zone is efficiently allocating resources, utilizing existing space and expanding where necessary, while planning for future growth and technology, according to AHS.

“I think fundamentally it’s recognized that there is a need to rebuild a large component of the Royal Alex,” said Andrew Otway, president of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.

He said the physical infrastructure is no longer appropriate for care.

“The standard of care is not to have four bed units with five people inside those rooms… that’s just not an acceptable standard of care.”

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In 2014, the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation sounded the alarm over the declining state of the ageing main facility.

“A new Royal Alexandra Hospital is essential to Edmonton and essential to northern Alberta,” wrote chair John Day in the hospital foundation’s 2013-2014 Report to the Community.

READ MORE: Province announces $3.4B in renos and upgrades but no new hospitals for Edmonton region 

“All these reports now for the last 15 years have shown that the infrastructure of the Alex is in significant need of this redevelopment project,” said Otway on Tuesday.

The Royal Alex is one of the country’s largest and longest-serving hospitals. Construction of the current complex was complete in 1959 at a cost of $9 million. The hospital has been expanded several times over the past 104 years.

Otway said he understands the price tag could be a tough pill to swallow. However, it should be a little easier given the project would be done over a long period of time in a number of stages.

AHS recognizes the Royal Alex redevelopment as a high-priority need.

“The challenge, of course, is that we have to keep the current hospital running at the same time that we’re building,” said Mador.

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The other challenge: where all the money will come from and when.

“I think we’re waiting to hear what the strategy – the capital management strategy – will be from the new government in terms of the amount of money they’re going to commit to invest.”

In a statement Tuesday, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said:

“Albertans deserve to know that our capital planning decisions are based on evidence about the current and future needs for investments in health care infrastructure, and that’s the purpose of AHS submissions related to capital planning – to help us build solid health care infrastructure plans. The Royal Alex is a key part of the health system and a key priority for us. Our capital plan will outline how we plan to address the needs at the Royal Alex and balance them with others from across the province in this challenging fiscal climate.”

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