Grande Prairie hospital to open by end of year: AHS

Premier Jason Kenney announces the completion of construction of the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital on June 26, 2020 (Source: Government of Alberta)

It has been almost 10 years since ground was broken for the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital (GPRH) which is yet to see a single patient.

According to Alberta Health Services (AHS), the facility should be open by the end of the year.

“We (AHS) intend to be done and be able to open up the facility for our first patients by the end of this calendar year,” Stacy Greening, AHS senior operating officer told Town & Country News this week.

Premier Ed Stelmach broke ground for the hospital on July 29, 2011; some five premiers have come and gone since then.

The $850 million project was originally due to be open by fall 2014 and saw an onslaught of construction delays.

AHS has been commissioning the hospital since July of last year and had previously announced a mid-2021 opening.

“The reason why we're looking at the timelines we have is that we were granted funding for phase two of the hospital, build-out and so that included an additional medicine unit, and then the build-out of our addictions and mental health space,” said Greening.

Phase 2 of construction currently underway includes a 28-bed mental health unit (up from the previous 18 beds), and the addition of a 32-bed medicine unit and two additional operating suites.

The commissioning will include installing medical equipment, furniture, full training for staff, and an entire facility deep clean, said Greening.

“When we looked at the idea of opening the facility while those construction projects were being built out, it would be difficult,” she said. “Really, having the facility open all at once rather than phase by phase will help to streamline services in one location.”

The hospital, when opened, will move patients from the QEII hospital to the GPRH over a period of a few days.

“Essentially, what we want to minimize is patients needing to go back and forth between the two facilities, and so it is in the best interest of patients and our staff and just continuity of care,” said Greening.

As for the many delays that the GPRH has had, Greening doesn't believe that the time delay will affect the ultimate efficiency of the hospital.

“When we do plan for healthcare facilities, we plan on a long-range trajectory,” said Greening.

She said that the science in medical care is changing too. Where open surgeries once took place, many can now be done laparoscopically, resulting in shorter recovery times with fewer beds needed than in previous years.

“While we plan for growth and development, we knew Grande Prairie is a growing area, and that's not been lost on us as we plan for this facility.”

GPRH will have 243 beds compared to Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) hospital's 161 beds.

“I think one of the big benefits of the new hospital is the radiation therapy,” said Greening.

Grande Prairie area patients who required radiation treatments previously had to drive to Edmonton for the service.

According to the AHS website, the new hospital will see an increase in ICU spaces and allow for the emergency department's growth.

The new hospital will also include 11 operating rooms, including two supported by the Alberta Surgical initiative and a dedicated obstetrical operating room in the maternity ward.

The GPRH will be the largest surgical site in the North Zone of AHS, which sees people from all over the north and will have services closer for residents rather than going to Edmonton, said Greening.

Some services will remain at the QEII hospital, such as the Mackenzie Place, the continuing care portion of the hospital, enhanced care, and the dialysis program, said Greening.

She added that AHS would look into other clinical options that AHS could utilize at the QEII.

“We know that the community and surrounding areas are really excited about this hospital, and we are two, and we're very much looking forward to celebrating the opening,” said Greening.

Beaverlodge mayor hopes hospital construction will start next year

Beaverlodge mayor Gary Rycroft gave an update on a new hospital there at the intermunicipal meeting on Thursday.

“We hope to have shovels in the ground within like a year, year and a half, something like that or sooner if we can get away with it,” said Rycroft.

The new health complex will expand the services of the current hospital and hopefully add more as well, he said.

In January, the town began to look for partners to build the new health complex.

“We have selected a company. We're just in the process now of dealing with the contractual part of it and the nitty-gritty,” said Rycroft.

The town's investment will be providing the land, while their partner will do the design, and after that, finances will be reviewed.