Misericordia, Royal Alex hospital renovations promised in Alberta's 5-year plan

The provincial government will commit money to renovating and expanding hospitals in Edmonton and northern Alberta over the next five years, but opposition parties called the promises empty and long overdue

Opposition parties accuse government of making announcement on eve of expected election

Premier Jim Prentice said the government will significantly increase the amount spent on maintaining Alberta's health care facilities. (CBC)

The provincial government will commit money to renovate and expand hospitals in Edmonton and northern Alberta over the next five years, the premier announced Monday.

Jim Prentice laid out government’s plans for $3.4 billion of spending on health facilities over five years, money that was previously announced in the provincial budget last week.

“Our government understands the vital role that health care plays in this province,” Prentice said.

The plan includes the redevelopment of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, as well as renovations and expansion of the Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals.

Critical care and surgical suites at the Stollery Children’s Hospital will also be expanded.

The plan also includes funding for northern Alberta, such as urgent care facilities in Beaverlodge and Sylvan Lake and a new continuing-care centre in Fort McMurray.

The government has also promised to boost the money spent on maintaining its health care facilities, increasing it from $70 million annually to $111 million next year, eventually hitting $146 million by 2019.

“We have about $25 billion to $30 billion in investments in hospital facilities in the province, it’s vitally important that we continue to maintain that,” Health Minister Stephen Mandel said.

‘A drop in the bucket’

But opposition parties were quick to denounce the announcement.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the province’s commitment is too little, too late. She said an estimated $1 billion worth of deferred maintenance is needed in Alberta’s health-care centres, and called Prentice’s announcement “a drop in the bucket.”

“What we’re hearing them try to do is pitch this as a good news story, when in fact it’s actually a story about this government’s repeated, long-term failures,” she said.

Notley criticized the government for only committing to renovate the Misericordia instead of replacing the hospital, which she said should have been done a decade ago. She accused Prentice of trying to improve his government’s image just before an expected spring election.

“Without question, what this was today was a pre-election announcement funded with taxpayer dollars.”

The Wildrose also weighed in, calling the spending announcement on the eve of an election "another bad rerun from the PC government," which it said is known for breaking promises once election votes are counted.

“I’ve seen it first-hand in Fort McMurray," Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said in a news release. "Our seniors are still waiting for long-term care beds, even though PC premiers have promised them five different times. This PC government and Mr. Prentice no longer deserve a blank cheque on their promises."

The Wildrose listed several major health-care promises it said were broken by PC governments.

That list included:

  • 140 family care clinics, promised in April 2012, (The Wildrose said only one has been built so far);
  • The Whitecourt hospital, promised in February 1994, (The Wildrose said it is now in the design phase);
  • Fort McMurray long-term care facility, promised in March 2008,  (The Wildrose said it is delayed);
  • Sherwood Park hospital, promised in the 2006 budgt,  (The Wildrose called the project a broken promise);
  • An Edson health centre, promised in the 2005 budget,  (The Wildrose said it is now under construction);
  • High Prairie health centre, promised in Oct. 2004,  (The Wildrose said it is now under construction);
  • A Grande Prairie hospital, promised in Oct. 2004,  (The Wildrose said it is now under construction).