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Grande Prairie’s patience applauded as province celebrates new hospital’s grand opening

“Job done.”

The words of Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda as the official grand opening of the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital was marked Saturday. Along with Minister Panda, Premier Jason Kenney, Minister of Health Jason Copping, and Minister of Finance and Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews were on hand for the celebration at the new hospital, which was highlighted by speeches from other local dignitaries and Indigenous chiefs from multiple regional First Nations.

“This new Grande Prairie hospital is a fantastic example of what is possible when we work together and I am so honoured to mark the grand official opening of Alberta’s newest, most modern, and technologically advanced hospital,” Kenney remarked.

The Grande Prairie Regional Hospital opened its doors to the public on December 4, 2021, a decade after construction first began. Since then, AHS North Zone medical director Dr. Brian Muir reports there have been more than 10,000 emergency room visits, 1,154 surgeries, and 316 babies born at the facility.

“Countless lives will be touched within these walls in the months and years to come. We are honoured to be part of their experience, offering care to patients and loved ones throughout their healthcare journey.”

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Among the features of the new hospital are 243 private in-patient rooms, a 28-bed mental health unit with nine mental health beds dedicated to children and youth, 11 operating rooms, including one dedicated obstetrical operating room for C-sections in the maternity unit, and a cancer centre with two radiation vaults so it can offer radiation therapy.

“This means people from the Grande Prairie area no longer have to drive four-and-a-half hours to Edmonton for radiation treatment,” notes Minister Copping. “All told, we built this hospital ready for the future.”

The building also includes a space for training future nurses and healthcare professionals through a partnership with Grande Prairie Regional College, soon to be Northwestern Polytechnic. There have also been extensive efforts made to ensure the new hospital is a culturally safe and welcoming space for Indigenous people, according to President of the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre Len Auger, who co-chairs the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital Indigenous Engagement Committee.

“We want people to feel safe. They want an environment where they’re respected, where they’re treated with dignity, and they get the best healthcare.”

Those efforts continue, with the committee looking to create an Indigenous courtyard with a garden for the growing of traditional medicine, a teepee, a Red River cart, and an inukshuk, as well as recruiting more Indigenous workers to the hospital.

Premier Kenney also took his visit to express his opinion of the Swan City as a “tremendous Alberta city”, reflecting on its young population and diversified economy, as well as to acknowledge the long-wait for the new facility.

“I think that really Grande Prairie in so many ways reflects the spirit and the heart of Alberta with the work ethic, the youth of this community, the economy based in resources, but also so diversified, and leading the way,” he said. “Thank you especially to Grande Prairie residents for your patience. We know that good things take a while and this is a great thing.”

The total cost of the project is now pegged by the province as $870 million, an increase of $20 million from the price tag disclosed when the official operational date was announced. The QEII Hospital is still in use by AHS for some services like dialysis, rehabilitation, and Mackenzie Place continuing care, with more possibilities being explored.

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