The Alberta government has set aside $100 million to begin “major expansion” work on the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement in Red Deer on Tuesday morning, saying the hospital has been operating at 100 per cent capacity for some time.
“Both patients and medical staff deserve better,” Kenney said.
Kenney said $5 million in funding will be available this fiscal year for consultation, planning and pre-construction work. He said construction will begin in 2021.
“Let me be clear. The budget to be tabled tomorrow doesn’t show the full $100 million over the course of the horizon of this budget,” the premier said.
“But I have given instruction to the departments of health and infrastructure to move forward as much of the $100 million to be spent as quickly as possible to get construction underway and I can confirm that the bottom line is construction work will begin on the expansion and the refurbishment of the Red Deer hospital next year, in 2021.”
Last March, a group of Red Deer doctors came together to launch the “Demand Care” campaign, which called for improvements to the hospital.
The group said through the FOIP Act, it received data on infrastructure funding levels between 2008 and 2018 for projects in the healthcare system over $5 million.
The doctors said the numbers showed that during the 10-year period, Calgary received $2.5 billion, Edmonton received $1.4 billion and central Alberta received $107 million for healthcare infrastructure.
In February 2018, then-NDP premier Rachel Notley said her government was planning a “very major investment” to the hospital, but her party was ousted by the UCP in last spring’s provincial election.
Kenney stressed Wednesday that this is just Phase 1 of the project, and he recognizes more work is needed.
“As we work through these issues, as we complete our consultations and hopefully as the province’s fiscal health improves, we will seek additional investments for additional phases of the expansion and refurbishment of this hospital. So you have our commitment on that.”
The 2020 provincial budget is set to be tabled on Thursday afternoon. Kenney said the budget will “reflect an investment of $6.4 billion in capital spending in the forthcoming fiscal year.”
According to the province, about 50 per cent of patients who receive care at the hospital are referred from outside Red Deer.