Ground officially broken for Victoria Hospital expansion project

Michael Olekyn/Daily Herald Many dignitaries including Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, Mayor Greg Dionne, PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte. Senator Noland Henderson, Premier Scott Moe, Health Minister Everett Hindley, Boreal Healthcare Foundation CEO Cody Barnett, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross and SHA CEO Andrew Will took part in an official groundbreaking for the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital (PAVH) project for the new acute care tower at Victoria Hospital on Friday.

The new acute care tower at Victoria Hospital project in Prince Albert is officially underway. With golden shovels in hand, provincial and local politicians joined dignitaries to officially break ground on the project Friday afternoon.
The cost is $900 million and the acute care tower will require an additional 500 staff and
serve the Prince Albert region and northern Saskatchewan.
“I just think this means everything on so many fronts,” Premier Scott Moe said. “It’s a service not only to the people in Prince Albert, but the region and the entire northern part of our province.”
A new staff and visitor parking lot was completed earlier this spring to make way for the structure to be built in the former parking area.
With the building of the helipad, and the addition of northern Saskatchewan’s first MRI scanner, patients will be transferred to the Prince Albert hospital for care rather than being taken to Saskatoon or Regina, Moe said.
When the hospital expansion was first announced in 2020, it was expected to cost about $300 million. With pandemic-era inflation, that number soon ballooned to $900 million. This did not stop the province from pushing ahead.
“It didn’t give us a second thought,” Health Minister Everett Hindley said.
Hindley said costs have gone up for construction across the board for both government and private sector projects. He added that the government is aware this is taxpayers money, but the project was important.
Hindley said that the ground-breaking was an important day because the project has been advocated for many years by provincial, municipal and First Nations leadership
“(That shows) just how important it is to be see growing demands on healthcare for Prince Albert and all of northern Saskatchewan,” he said.
Hindley added that the addition of the MRI scanner was important to the project because it helps address a growing demand for MRI services in northern Saskatchewan.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Premier Scott Moe talks to the crowd at an official groundbreaking for the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital (PAVH) project for the new acute care tower at Victoria Hospital on Friday.

“This is such an integral project for Prince Albert and surrounding area that it was critical that it goes ahead,” he said.
On top of an existing shortage, the SHA will need to find another 500 people to move to Prince Albert.
Moe admitted it is a significant challenge and all provinces are facing the same shortage and trying to hire the same healthcare staff.
It will take four years before the expansion is complete, Moe said the province can make
headway in its efforts to hire international healthcare staff and train more people themselves.
“In the meantime, we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to build towards the staff needed for this facility and that includes in the mental health and addiction space as well,” he said.
In addition to the current 10 youth beds and 29 adult beds for mental health and addictions, the expanded services will add another four youth beds and another 10 adult beds.
Moe said he believes the current planning of the province on this front will work.
“What you’re seeing Saskatchewan do that might be a little bit different than other provinces is a very focused four-point health, health human resource plan,” he explained.
Moe pointed to more psychiatric nursing seats announced Thursday in North Battleford and other CCA seats have been added across the province. The province is also offering cash incentives to doctors who are willing to work in more remote areas.
The next phase will also be fundraising for beds and equipment, which will be spearheaded by the Boreal Healthcare Foundation.
Cody Barnett the CEO of the Boreal Health Care Foundation, said the campaign to raise the $56 million needed for that has begun.
“We’re not in public phase yet, but we are actively fundraising,” he explained. “This is the largest fundraising campaign in Northern Saskatchewan’s history.”
The non-public phase involves finding corporate/business donors. After some time, it will switch to looking for money from the general public. This project is also expected to be completed in 2028.
“We will be actively fundraising over the next four years until we get essentially to (the) grand opening,” Barnett said.
The new multi-story acute care tower will increase overall capacity at Victoria Hospital about 40 per cent, from 173 to 242 inpatient beds, with room within the overall facility to expand up to 40 beds.
Developed by PCL Construction, the design includes a heliport on the roof, an expanded emergency department, larger operating rooms and day surgery, paediatrics, maternity, enhanced medical imaging including northern Saskatchewan’s first MRI, lab services, a new
adult mental health unit and intensive care unit. The recently expanded Malhotra Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will also be incorporated into the new space.
The ceremony was emceed by Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross. Speakers included Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte, Mayor Greg Dionne, SHA CEO Andrew Will, Barnett, Moe and Hindley. The ceremony opened with a
prayer by PAGC Senator Noland Henderson.
As an important partner of this project, Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) has provided input from the early stages and has been involved in the design of the facility, including the new front entrance featuring a dedicated First Nations and Metis cultural space.
“On behalf of the Executive and our 12 Chiefs’ of our member First Nations, I continued to be pleased that our vision of a new hospital is closer to becoming a reality,” Prince Albert Grand Council Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte said in a press release.
“We are looking forward to the increased number of beds and enhanced services to provideholistic health care in a culturally safe environment for Prince Albert, surrounding areas and the North.”
PCL and the Saskatchewan Health Authority will work hard to ensure minimal disruption for staff and visitors of the PAVH. Impact to patients or patient care is not anticipated.
The facility is expected to be completed by Spring 2028.