In the Alberta government’s 2017 budget, the NDP announced $65 million over four years for upgrades to Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital. On Monday, the province said that modernization project includes a new emergency department.
“Funding for a new emergency department is a major step forward towards a modern, vibrant Misericordia that meets the needs of the communities in west Edmonton and beyond for generations to come,” said Patrick Dumelie, Covenant Health president and CEO.
During the 2015-2016 year, the Misericordia saw 51,214 visits to its emergency department; more than double the volume it was designed to accommodate.
The current ER was built in 1969 and it was renovated in 1989.
“The Mis emergency department is the closest hospital for some of Edmonton’s most socio-economically challenged neighbourhoods,” said Tana Fish, program manager of emergency services. “Seniors and people with mental illness represent a large portion of people who come through our doors each day.
“We love the Misericordia and we are proud of the care we provide but there is no question that we work in an environment that has its challenges,” Fish explained. “The space is cramped, there is a lack of privacy… We are excited and grateful for today’s announcement.”
Construction on the new ER will start by late 2018, the province said and will also create “hundreds of good, mortgage-paying jobs,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said.
“The new build will not disrupt current services during construction,” Dumelie said. “The current emergency will be built as a connected part of the hospital.”
The $65 million is on top of more than $9 million the province has spent on improvements to elevators, water systems, fire alarms and sprinklers.
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.
The flood at the Misericordia in May 2013 forced more than 50 patients and more than 160 staff members to be transferred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Then in 2014, the hospital flooded twice in three weeks because of heavy rainfall.
Since then, there have been calls to replace the hospital, which was built in the 1960s. In 2014, the then-opposition Alberta NDP was among those calling for a replacement hospital.
“Our government is proud to fix problems ignored by the previous government for far too long,” Hoffman said.
“We know the community has been waiting years for improvements at the Misericordia. We are listening and making life better for patients and hospital staff with this investment.”
A report released by AHS in October recommended scaling back upgrades at the Misericordia, to steer funding towards other projects. The same report suggested a new hospital would be needed in Edmonton to keep up with acute care services in the future.
Former premier and current Covenant Health Board Chair Ed Stelmach attended Monday’s announcement.