Speaking to Global News in Red Deer on Wednesday, Notley said the province is nearly finished a needs assessment on the central Alberta facility, which has already revealed “very clearly that there are significant pressures.”
“The hospital here has been pulling well above its weight for a very long time,” Notley said.
“We have concluded that we do in fact need to make a very major investment here in Red Deer to significantly redevelop and expand the hospital going forward. And so that is something that will be seen in the capital budget moving forward.”
Notley said that while smaller investments have been made at the hospital over the years, the facility “really needs quite a significant upgrade.”
Physicians and people who use the hospital have long campaigned for improvements to the facility. A 2015 needs assessment done by Alberta Health Services found the hospital needs 96 more inpatient beds, 18 more beds in the emergency department and three more operating rooms.
Notley wouldn’t give a firm timeline on when an official funding announcement would be made, just that it would be outlined in the spring budget, if her government gets to table one. The premier wouldn’t say whether that budget would be tabled before or after a spring election.
“It will be whenever the budget comes out, assuming that we’re the ones that are writing it, depending on when it comes out you will see that it’s there,” she said.
“We are currently working it into our planning because we know that it’s absolutely important for the families and the residents of this city — and around this city — because Red Deer hospital serves much of central Alberta, and the demand on it is growing. And it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen significant investment.
“The point is, is that our plan is to now scope out the best, most efficient way to do it and to move forward.”
The announcement comes amid concerns from the Official Opposition that Notley’s government is election campaigning on the public dime.
Earlier this month, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney demanded that Notley call the spring election already.
“Enough is enough,” Kenney said on Feb. 1. “Stop clinging to power. Albertans want change. Not an endless taxpayer-funded campaign.”
By law, the provincial election must be held between March 1 and May 31. Notley said “we will absolutely be doing it during that time.”
“In the past, we didn’t actually see the former Conservative government even honour the election law. And certainly federally, we’ve seen the federal Conservatives — part of the government that Mr. Kenney was once part of — completely write the book on pre-election campaigning. So you know what, we’re going to continue governing and we will call the election by the rules, within the rules, as set out in the legislation.”
Notley didn’t say what the hospital project might entail, only that next steps would be to look at the scope of the project, development planning and engineering.
— With files from The Canadian Press.