New hospital will add 69 beds, helipad and MRI

The premier said the project, consisting of an addition as well as renovations to existing spaces, will cost more than $300 million.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne and Premier Scott Moe examine an artists' rendering of the new Prince Albert hospital as PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte and past grand chief Ron Michel look on. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Prince Albert’s new hospital will see a 40 per cent increase in the number of beds, a newer, bigger emergency room, a rooftop helipad and an MRI machine, the province announced Friday.

The project, originally confirmed Wednesday, doesn’t have a finalized budget but will cost “north of $300 million,” said Premier Scott Moe..

The province will fund 100 per cent of the infrastructure costs.

Moe was one of several Sask. Party cabinet ministers who packed into a corner of the Victoria Hospital’s cafeteria to announce the project. More than 75 people packed into the space, leaving standing room only.

Premier Scott Moe speaks to dozens of people during an announcement regarding the new Prince Albert hospital on March 6, 2020. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Moe said the new and expanded hospital will include more space for ambulatory care, diagnostics and inpatient services. It will also have a new space for the delivery of mental health services and enhanced medical imaging.

“We know these improvements are required,” Moe said.

“They’re needed because this hospital is running at full capacity. It’s often running at more than full capacity. The people of Prince Albert, this region and the northern communities in this province will now have a hospital we all deserve.”

While Moe announced the project as a new and expanded project, the province said in a press release that the project will consist of a multi-story addition. The concept includes a new acute care tower, replacement of the existing adult mental health space and renovations to the current facility. It’s expected to increase the number of beds to 242 on opening day, 69 more than the current 173 beds, with space to expand further as needed.

The Prince Albert Grand Council was also engaged during the design phase and 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. The PAGC was at the announcement Friday and said they look forward to continuing to be a part of the planning. They will also lobby for federal funding for the project.

The local community and the Victoria Hospital Foundation will raise funds for furniture and equipment.

The procurement model — whether it’s done through a P3 or a traditional model — has yet to be determined. Health Minister Jim Reiter said timelines won’t be established until the procurement model is set. Moe said that will be done through the province’s audited process to get the best value for money.

Moe had promised as part of his campaign for leadership of the Sask. Party that he would commit to building a new, 100 per cent provincially-funded hospital in Prince Albert. He repeated that promise last year when $5 million was put aside for pre-construction design work for the project.

Speaking to reporters, Moe explained why the province committed to funding the entirety of the project.

“This is the third-largest health care centre offering services in the province,” he said.

“We fund our tertiary health care centres 100 per cent. This facility is servicing (an area) much broader than just the city of Prince Albert. It’s not a tertiary centre but  … this is a facility that is far beyond a community health care facility.”

That help, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said, is a major relief for the city’s tax burden.

He said if the city were to have to share part of the cost, it would amount to a $466 levy placed on each Prince Albert home every year for ten years.

The province’s contribution “saved every taxpayer int his city just over $4,500 for the next ten years,” he said.

That’s why, he added, he will have no problem asking the community to come together to help furnish the new facility.

Moe also rejected any notion that the addition was anything but a new hospital for Prince Albert.

“It is a new hospital,” he said. “There is a new hospital being built here and it’s expanded in its scope, it’s expanded in its capacity, it’s expanded in the services being provided. There are some bones of the existing hospital that will remain for the acute care portion … and we will be renovating that area as well so it will be like new.”

Premier Scott Moe cracks a smile while announcing the new Prince Albert hospital on March 6, 2020 (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

He said many decisions still have to be made when it comes to service delivery and other details.

He said the hospital’s intakes will all be redesigned and rebuilt, and that the city wouldn’t see a repeat of what happened when the Victoria Hospital was built. Then, the existing Holy Family Hospital was closed and sat empty before being torn down.

“A number of years ago there was capacity removed from this community in the tearing down of Holy Family Hospital,” Moe said.

“The current (hospital) building is structurally sound. It’s had a very high throughput of patients for a number of years, but it’s structurally sound.”

Dionne agrees with Moe’s assessment.

“We do have a new hospital,” he said.

“It’s going to be a brand new building. It’s connected. I didn’t want this one to go with the fate of Holy Family. I’m into reusing and recycling because otherwise, it would have gone to our landfill. I’m really pleased they incorporated both.”