Public information session on Red Deer hospital expansion short on details
Information on the progress of Red Deer Hospital’s $1.8 billion expansion has been too little for some concerned citizens, and construction will come too late.
A public briefing was held Thursday evening in the lobby of the Red Deer Provincial Building to provide a status update on the project. Construction for the 10-year project will not begin until around 2026 or 2027 with a goal of completion by 2030, 2031 or earlier.
“I think most people were pretty disappointed when they heard that there won’t even be shovels in the ground for the next three or four years,” said Harley Hay, who attended the session, which had standing room only of about 50 Spectators attracted small vestibule.
“Based on previous experiences, I don’t have a lot of confidence in a smooth process.”
Hay, who is a member of the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta (SHECA), said central Alberta residents had been left in the dark for too long, and while it was nice to see some basic drawings on paper, he wanted one detailed timeline that was missing in the presentation.
Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nathan Neudorf said the key message the government wanted to convey during the session was that “building a healthcare facility is complex compared to schools or other public buildings.”
“There are complexities that most of the general public does not understand and it is difficult to explain them to them because it is tedious and very time consuming,” Neudorf told media at the presentation.
Red Deer NDP candidates said they were shocked by Neudorf’s arrogance.
“It is a slap in the face for the minister to suggest that residents would not understand the complexity of the construction and the delay. The UCP should take on the delay and commit to completing the work, rather than making excuses and avoiding responsibility,” NDP candidate for Red Deer-South Michelle Baer said in a statement.
Mayor Ken Johnston said he was equally discouraged by the pace of the project, but the public meeting was an excellent place to start.
“We cannot change the past. At this point we have a lot more detail now than we did a few months ago,” Johnston said of the plan, which shows the location of the additional floors and a new outpatient care building at the hospital.
He said commitment to the project was firm from both the UCP and NDP, so regardless of the results of May’s provincial election, there was no fear it would disappear from the capital plan.
“The business case was created and validated. The functional programming has been carried out and validated. The tender for design proposals ends in six weeks, long before the election. As such, I truly believe this project will transcend the electoral process and remain on course,” Johnston said.
Hay said the project’s progress needs to be closely monitored if it stalls, and SHECA will increase communications to keep the public informed.
“We want to put our feet into the fire”
But in the meantime, he said Alberta’s health services must stop ignoring the needs of central Albertan residents by attending to Red Deer’s overburdened hospital and ensuring adequate staffing, he added.
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Red Deer Regional Hospital Center