Alberta’s 2017-2018 budget handed out plenty of health-care goodies Thursday with a pledge to build a new hospital in Edmonton and a 200-bed continuing-care facility in Calgary, in the northeast community of Bridgeland. The $4.5-billion health infrastructure plan also includes money to modernize and renovate Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital and build two new facilities at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Absent is any money for the Red Deer Hospital, which Alberta Health Services has said needs 96 more inpatient beds, 18 more beds in the emergency department, and three more operating rooms.
In February, Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, the chief of orthopedic surgery, told Global News some patients have waited days for a bed in the emergency ward, and surgeries regularly have to be cancelled.
An AHS report released in October identified the need for a new hospital in Edmonton to meet demand (link here: http://globalnews.ca/news/3026932/new-hospital-needed-in-edmonton-calls-to-scale-back-royal-alex-misericordia-ahs/). It recommended a new Edmonton health campus to include inpatient beds, emergency care, rehabilitation, mental health, diagnostic and ambulatory services.
The report also recommended scaling back upgrades to the Royal Alexandra and Misericordia, both of which have previously been identified as being in need of renovations and repairs. However, the government does plan to move ahead with improvements, marking $65 million to modernize and renovate the emergency room at Misericordia and $519 million over four years for a new child and adolescent mental health building and the Norwood Long Term Care Facility at the Royal Alexandra.
Edmonton hasn’t seen a new adult hospital open in the city since the Grey Nuns Community Hospital opened its doors in 1988. While no site has been chosen for the new facility, the province will likely have to find a lot more money to fully fund the project. Calgary’s newest hospital, the South Health Campus, came with a price tag of over 1.3B when it opened in 2013.
The budget also includes the nearly $1.2 billion previously promised for Calgary’s new cancer centre. Construction on this project is scheduled to begin later this year at the Foothills Medical Centre, although the cancer center won’t be ready to see patients until 2024. Another $40 million has also been budgeted for a new provincial drug production and distribution centre.
On the operations side, health spending remains the biggest ticket item of the provincial budget, at $21.4 billion– $685 million more than last year. The 3.2-per-cent increase comes despite discussion last year by the province that health spending in Alberta was outpacing per capita spending in other provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario. In the last budget, the province noted it was working with AHS to find ways to cut costs.
AHS will receive $14.7 billion, while $5.2 billion will go to compensate the province’s doctors, an increase of$400 million over last year, though the province says a new agreement with the Alberta Medical Association will save $500 million over two years.
Another $45 million has been pledged for addiction and mental health support, including funding to support the recommendations in last year’s Valuing Mental Health Report.
With files from Julia Wong and Tom Vernon (Global News)