Construction on the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital is now 85 per cent complete and will wrap up this summer, the province says.
In a written statement last week, Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said the province is “focused on getting this project across the finish line” and will soon hand the keys to Alberta Health Services.
Hadyn Place, Panda’s press secretary, said the province expects the hospital to be operational by late December.
The 64,000-square-metre facility will include a new cancer centre with two radiation treatment vaults, along with a training facility that will be operated in partnership with the Grande Prairie Regional College.
The hospital has a $763-million budget, according to Alberta Health Services. After construction is finished but before it opens to patients, it will be commissioned, AHS said in a fall 2019 community update.
The commissioning phase will include cleaning the entire building, installing furniture and equipment, training staff on medical equipment and systems, and testing all medical and building systems.
“I think the community is very thankful that we can see the end of this very important infrastructure project — and ultimately, it’s about the service that it’s going to provide for all the years from here on out,” Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given said in an interview.
The province says the new hospital will reduce travel time for patients needing specialized and complex care, such as surgeries, cancer care and emergency services.
Years of delay and uncertainty
The project, announced in 2007 by then-premier Ed Stelmach, has been met with years of disputes and delays.
Construction began in 2011. The facility was expected to be operational by late 2018.
In 2015, the province said the project was $89 million over budget and two years behind schedule.
In 2018, the province dismissed contractor Graham Construction and halted construction, saying the mitigation plan submitted by the company was not sufficient.
Graham Construction publicly disputed the province’s claims and blamed it for construction overruns and delays. A court order later mandated Alberta to pay nearly $13 million to subcontractors involved.
In late 2018, Edmonton-based Clark Builders was hired to take over the project.
“There’s also a lot of growth opportunity and potential, and I think for a lot of local decision makers and businesses, that deferral of that growth is something that created a lot of uncertainty,” Given said.
“I think when the building finally does open it will give everybody a lot more confidence and demonstrate that the provincial government has confidence in this region as well.”
Given noted that an economic impact analysis done by the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce in 2016 projected the hospital will increase the area’s annual gross domestic product by $276.7 million.
“I think it demonstrates the fact that when the hospital is fully staffed, it will be an important economic generator in our local economy,” he said.
“Given the current provincial budget constraint, that may be something that’s deferred. But in any case I think the community is looking forward to having the capital project completed.”