Funding for new hospital hot topic during leadership race

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald. Patients heading to the Victoria Hospital emergency department with non-life threatening injuries could face a few delays as staff deals with a backlog of visitors.

Mayor Greg Dionne says Premier Brad Wall promised to build a new hospital in Prince Albert with provincial funding, and he wants to make sure the next premier keeps that promise.

Dionne has met with three leadership candidates since Wall announced in August that he would be stepping down, and the construction of a new hospital has come up at every meeting.

Although he remains convinced that the issue won’t get shoved to the back burner, Dionne said he wanted to make sure candidates followed through on Wall’s promise.

“It’s like an election,” he said. “They’re saying it today. Hopefully they agree with it tomorrow.”

A big part of the discussion revolves around whether the new hospital is local or regional in nature. All local hospitals are built with 80 per cent funding from the provincial government and 20 per cent from the city.

Dionne said Victoria Hospital should be classified as regional, since it serves so many residents from the north. If the classification was changed, the province would agree to fund 100 per cent of the construction costs.

Dionne raised the issue during Ken Cheveldayoff’s stop in Prince Albert on Monday. Cheveldayoff invited the mayor to the meeting with the understanding that it was a non-partisan appearance.

Afterwards, Cheveldayoff told the Daily Herald he was convinced Victoria Hospital was serving more than just Prince Albert, but wanted the new province-wide health authority to take a look at the project before going any further.

However, there was one candidate to come out in favour of Wall’s plan: Rosthern-Shellbrook MLA Scott Moe.

In an interview on Tuesday, Moe reaffirmed his commitment to fully funding a new hospital in the city, but only after the government finished its three-year plan to balance the books.

“When our finances permit, we would put this through the process of treasury board and caucus and cabinet decision process, to build that hospital in Prince Albert, and to fund it 100 per cent with provincial government funding,” he said.

@kerr_jas •