With a provincial election looming, the Notley government is making some vague promises about a long-awaited hospital expansion in Red Deer.
The hospital — which serves at least 400,000 in central Alberta — is often over capacity and doctors there say the facility is short at least 100 beds, something they’ve been asking to be remedied for several years.
“What we are committing to is if we are re-elected this spring, that we’ll be moving ahead to continue funding for a major hospital redevelopment,” said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.
“We know that the staff there have been punching above their weight and it’s been the third busiest hospital in the province, and we know how important it is that Red Deer-area residents have the care they need, and also other people who spend time or live in central Alberta. This is a major hub for us.”
Hoffman says a report looking at the needs in Red Deer is almost done.
“We absolutely know that there’s a need for increased investment,” she said.
“Whether it’s done in one single shot or whether it’s a few phases depends on some of what we get back in that final business plan and needs assessment, that’s being developed right now.”
Red Deer specialist, Dr. Kym Jim, is part of a group of doctors and others pushing for the expansion.
“This is something we are not going to be satisfied with simple announcements — we need to see action,” he said.
“Action that, to be quite honest, should have occurred years ago.”
Jim says he wants a commitment from all parties ahead of the provincial election campaign. And Red Deer’s mayor agrees, saying in central Alberta, the expectation is that whoever forms the next government will get the hospital expansion built.
UCP spokesman Matt Solberg said in an emailed statement the UCP spoke out about the need for expansion last year when it was left off the government’s priority list, and it continues to advocate.
“The needs and concerns of central Albertans, especially when it comes to health care, are real and need to be addressed even outside of election periods,” it read.
“Our platform will be released in due course.”
Hoffman wouldn’t say how much money the government will be willing to commit.
It is also unclear if the Notley government will table a budget before the election, which has to be held by the end of May.