EDMONTON – The day after the provincial budget was delivered, Alberta ministers answered questions about an allotment of only $20 million in planning funds for two of Edmonton’s hospitals in need of repairs to top $5 billion.
Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman spoke at the Stollery Children’s Hospital Wednesday morning, revealing how the NDP government is following through on some plans and promises made by the former Progressive Conservative government, and criticizing past leaders for not following through.
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The NDP government’s budget includes $10 million each for the Royal Alexandra and Misericordia hospitals to help with planning. The two facilities are in dire need of repair – the estimated cost to overhaul the Royal Alex alone is $4.5 billion.
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The budget also includes $830 million for a new, stand-alone cancer centre in Calgary, which won’t be completed until 2023-2024.
Mason criticized the former government for making announcements and then not following through, referencing both the Calgary cancer centre and the massive schools announcement.
“They would make their announcements based on political reasons and then design to the announcement,” said the long-time NDP MLA.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re trying to avoid.”
“These were some announcements that were made without having due consideration to timeline and costs,” added Hoffman.
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She said the government recognizes the infrastructure needs at the Misericordia and Royal Alex hospitals, but stressed the money for long-term planning was important.
The health minister explained “needs assessments” were being done at both hospitals and plans for improvements will come after that.
So the government can “roll out the phases in a way that’s responsible… [with] realistic timelines and realistic budgets.”
“That’s part of the work we’re doing with that $10 million [per hospital],” Hoffman added.
“So we can do that work and when we give you an update it will be a valid update.”
The projects specified in Tuesday’s budget include:
$17 million to expand the Stollery Children’s Hospital surgical suite;$50 million to redevelop and expand the hospital’s critical care units;Approximately $47 million for the Kaye Edmonton Clinic, including a new, state-of-the-art urology clinic;$20 million for long-term planning for the Royal Alexandra and Misericordia hospitals.
When asked if these were new projects from the NDP government or plans carried over from the previous government, Mason responded:
“The addition is the money for planning for the Alex and the Misericordia.”
Both Mason and Hoffman reiterated the $2.2 billion in the budget to be spent over five years on health facilities across Alberta.
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“With billions of health dollars at stake, we must get our health care plan right,” said Hoffman, “and we will.”
Alberta’s capital plan invests $2.2 billion to build and expand health facilities and equipment over the next five years. The plan also includes $4.4 billion over five years for “new projects and programs to be included in future capital plans.”
“There is a substantial portion of the health budget unallocated,” said Finance Minister Joe Ceci Tuesday. “We’re going to put that through the lens of: what’s needed? Is it the best capital to spend for the money? So we’ve reserved a significant part of the increase that we plan to put in this province…for the right time.”