Province, hospital foundation commit more money for standalone Stollery Children's Hospital
There's no timeline yet for when construction would begin or the cost or location of the building
The Alberta government and Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation are collectively pitching in $6 million to continue planning a standalone facility in Edmonton.
Officials still don't know where the hospital will be, how much it will cost and when construction will begin.
Health Minister Jason Copping said the province's $1-million commitment per year for the next three years is a "placeholder" until further planning reveals a projected cost to build the hospital.
"Our government's view is that this needs to happen. We want it to happen quickly," Copping said. "But we need it to be right. Thoughtful. So we make an investment that's going to last for years to come."
Deputy premier Kaycee Madu, the MLA for Edmonton-South West, said he wants the hospital "built yesterday," but more planning work needs to take place. He said he hopes the government can include construction funding in the 2024 provincial budget, should the United Conservative Party be re-elected.
The province also gave the hospital $1 million for planning in 2021, with tentative plans for construction funding coming in the 2022 budget. According to a government spokesperson, the needs assessment for the Stollery was completed in January 2022 and the province is developing the required business case on an accelerated timeline.
The business case verifies the need, develops the project scope requirements, infrastructure development options, cost estimates and a high-level project schedule.
- Alberta to explore possibility of Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital becoming stand-alone facility
The Stollery opened 22 years ago inside the existing University of Alberta Hospital on the school's main campus.
Copping said it has since outgrown that space, with services spread between 11 buildings.
Alberta Health Services CEO Mauro Chies said a new hospital would ideally be located on campus. Planners are looking at several options, he said, without providing specifics.
The next stage of planning will help answer questions such as, what programs and services the hospital should include, and how many patients and families it should accommodate, he said.
Mike House, president of the hospital foundation, said an assessment completed with the 2021 planning money confirmed northern Alberta needs a standalone children's hospital. The foundation said Thursday it would match the government's planning dollars.
In an interview, House said he's more concerned the project is done right, rather than pushed ahead quickly.
"We don't want the government of Alberta, nor do we want our donor dollars to be put toward something that hasn't been articulated in a thoughtful way by the experts," he said.
Stollery sees patients from across the region
The Stollery is the western Canadian referral centre for pediatric cardiac surgery, and also specializes in organ transplants.
About 317,000 patients move through the hospital annually, and 40 per cent of inpatients come from outside Edmonton.
Copping said the 236-bed hospital is the second-largest children's hospital in the country after Toronto's Sick Kids.
A standalone Stollery would have more space for families to stay with children and more breathing room for specialized pediatric services, officials said.
"A new purpose-built hospital would mean more time and space for my kid to be a kid," said Erica Thomas, chair of the Stollery Women's Network. "Where playrooms aren't turned into patient rooms. Where they aren't exposed to adult issues and trauma."
Her son Benjamin spent 40 nights and more than 100 days in the Stollery before doctors declared him cancer free.
NDP health critic David Shepherd said Thursday's pledge of planning money is part of a UCP government pattern of promising new hospitals, then failing to follow through.
"It's clear the government's scrambling to get an announcement out the door ahead of an election where they kind of want to shore up their support," Shepherd said.
The premier is expected to call an election for May 29.
If elected, the NDP would stick to the $3-million planning commitment and sit down with the Stollery foundation and health-care workers to determine how to get the project moving, Shepherd said.
With files from Scott Stevenson