PAGC and Victoria Hospital Foundation to play key roles as project moves forward

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne speaks at the announcement for the new Prince Albert Hospital on March 6, 2020. (Peter Lozinski)

Tuesday’s announcement that the province hopes to begin construction on the expanded next year also highlights the upcoming involvement of two local organizations that will play a key role in the project moving forward.

One of those organizations is the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC).

The tribal council was involved in the initial announcement last February and its work helping to guide the new facility was highlighted again Tuesday.

The province committed to working with the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) on the facility’s design to ensure it is welcoming for all people, including the region’s large Indigenous population. In Tuesday’s press release, the province said it is establishing a senior PAGC committee with representation from the PAGC, SHA and Ministry of Health to collaborate and ensure appropriate input in planning and design to support the SHA’s commitment to the truth and reconciliation committee’s calls to action.

 “Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte is a very good man. I had a virtual meeting with him last week and this was on the discussion,” Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave said.

“They’re good partners and partners we need on this project to bring it all together because it’s for all of our communities. It’s so important we work together as partners on this project.”

PAGC executive director Al Ducharme said the organization is pleased that Stantec was selected for the project and that they’re very happy about being on the committee.

“We appreciate that our government is working with us and has recognized and valued our role in it.”

Before and after last year’s announcement, discussions have been ongoing between the province, PAGC and Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) (to make sure that we had a valued place and recognition of the vision we would share with them in terms of what kind of hospital and services would be required for the regional hospital,” Ducharme said.

The new hospital will be culturally sensitive to the needs of the Indigenous population. It may even include ceremonial spaces, such as smudging rooms, for the Indigenous community to use.

They’re not the only local group taking a key role as the new facility comes closer to reality.

The province’s commitment, a fully-funded project costing north of $300 million, doesn’t include the costs of what goes inside, the furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Victoria Hospital Foundation volunteer chair Lyle Karasiuk says the foundation will take the lead role in raising the funds to pay for it. It isn’t yet known how much furnishings will cost, but it could range from $30 to 50 million.

“As the government of the day and the SHA works towards what does the new facility look like, what services will be required, what equipment they will need, that will become abundantly clear,” Karasiuk said.

“This is not just a Prince Albert community project. This project serves a large community catchment. This is, after La Ronge, the first major health care facility most people are going to see. Even $30 million, that’s a large amount of money to be raised just here in our city. Once we start fundraising we will be looking to strike a committee and get people involved not just locally but within our region and in a much larger area going forward to make this project come to fruition.”

Karasiuk said the foundation has had preliminary discussions with the SHA and has started laying the groundwork for what will be the most major local health care fundraising ask in recent years.

“We’re looking to partner with many groups and organizations to make this come to fruition,” he said.