Mistakes were made in the process of building the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital. That’s the admission of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, acknowledging the project should never have taken 10 years.
Ground was broken on the facility in 2011, and was temporarily paused in 2018 when there was a change in contractors. The first stage of construction on the facility was completed in 2020, at which point the keys were handed over to AHS to begin commissioning work.
When first proposed in 2007, the project’s price tag was $319 million, which increased to $520 million when the 200-bed acute care facility and cancer centre was announced by then-Premier Ed Stelmach in 2010. At that time, it was expected some parts of the facility could be ready to deliver services in 2014.
The hospital opened to the public in December 2021 and is now an $870 million project with 243 beds. Speaking at the official grand opening of the new hospital Saturday, Kenney and Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda say they hope future projects do not experience similar delays.
“My understanding is the main mistake was not locking down the plan and constant changes to the project. Those changes result in delays, and ultimately, higher costs.”
Among the features of the new hospital are 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. 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.
Kenney notes that for health projects, like the expansion of the hospital in Red Deer, the goal is to get the planning done really early. Panda agrees with Kenney, citing the delay as a lesson the government can learn from.
“We at Infrastructure realize that we should get the best value for taxpayers’ money. Going forward, what we are trying to do is make sure the scope of the project is well defined before moving into construction.”
Panda adds that for future hospital projects, there should be more coordination and communication with Alberta Health Services and other stakeholders, as well as local community health foundations.
“In these projects, we will go through a gated process, which means step two doesn’t begin until step one is completed. First, we will have a needs assessment done, followed by figuring out what clinical services are needed, followed by functional programming, and approving the business case.”
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.