The Grande Prairie Regional Hospital will be accepting patients no later than the end of 2021. In Grande Prairie, Monday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro assured that the facility, which has been under construction for a decade as of this month, will have all the needed components in place by year’s end.

“We are so close to throwing open the doors of the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital and I can’t wait to see how well it will serve people and families in the area.”

There will be a total of 11 operating rooms when that happens. It was announced in 2020 that two ORs that had previously been shelled would be completed, thanks to $20 million in funding from the Alberta Surgical Initiative. That means 3,000 to 4,000 more surgeries can be scheduled per year.

Work on the additional rooms began last summer and construction should be done by the end of this month. Senior Operating Officer for the QEII Hospital Stacey Greening says they will add a tremendous amount of flexibility when it comes to availability, as well as helping to clear elective surgery backlogs.

“We are the largest surgical program in the North zone, so we do a significant number of surgeries performed,” she says. “It is important for people to be able to access the surgeries that are appropriate within their community.”

The pair of ORs are intended for surgeries with the longest wait times, like hip and knee replacements, cataract surgeries, surgeries for kidney stones, bladder and prostate tumours, bowel and hernia surgeries, as well as bariatric surgeries and breast reconstruction surgeries.

(L-R) Finance Minister & Grande Prairie Wapiti MLA Travis Toews, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, and Health Minister Tyler Shandro tour a new operating room at the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital. (mygrandeprairienow.com staff)

Greening says the additional spaces will also help them towards their goal of limiting travel for certain types of procedures, suggesting that healing is optimized when patients can stay close to their in-place support systems.

“So you can go home the day of surgery, or a couple of days after… you can be with your family, and they can [help] take care of you. That allows us to do more of these surgeries here and keep people at home, and we know that pathways are better for patients and better for families.”

During Shandro’s visit, it was also confirmed that the 28-bed mental health unit and the 32-bed acute care unit are also in the final stages of construction and should be done by the end of the summer. The facility was turned over to Alberta Health Services in June 2020 to get it ready for staff and patients.

Construction on the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital began back in 2011 and was temporarily paused in 2018 when there was a change in contractors. It was originally expected to open in 2015 with a budget of $319 million, which later increased to $763 million.

As of last note, the building now has an $850.3 million price tag. It will have 240 patient beds and a state-of-the-art cancer centre with two new radiation treatment areas, and a healthcare training facility to work in partnership with Grande Prairie Regional College.