Province to announce new hospital Friday; cost to exceed $200 million

Prince Albert's Victoria Hospital. (Herald file photo)

Prince Albert will be receiving a new hospital worth more than $200 million, the province confirmed Wednesday.

Health Minister Jim Reiter confirmed the project while speaking with reporters after Question Period, after the NDP asked about a tender seeking consulting services on an infrastructure project “that might exceed $200M in value.”

“That’ll be the hospital project in Prince Albert,” he said, responding to a question about what will cost the province over $200-million.

“You’ll see an announcement coming on Friday.”

That announcement will see both Reiter and Premier Scott Moe travel to Prince Albert, as well as members of city council and the official opposition.

He gave few further details about what the project will entail.

“I apologize,” he said.

“I don’t want to preempt it. It’ll be a big announcement for the P.A. area on Friday.”

He confirmed the project will be “in excess” of $200 million.

Friday’s announcement, he said, will go into more detail about the project.

He wouldn’t compare the project to other recent builds, such as the new hospital in Moose Jaw or the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

“It’s a bit different, a bit unique,” he said.

“P.A. handles a large number of people through there. It’s P.A. and area and indeed for the entire north. It’s a significant population served. I’ve toured that hospital and the issue there is the population has outgrown the hospital. We need to reflect that. We need a lot more capacity up there.”

About $5 million was put aside in last year’s budget for pre-construction planning.

Reiter said the decision as to whether the hospital will be a traditional build, a P3 project or something in between was yet to be determined. He also wouldn’t put a firm number on the cost.

“You don’t want to get too specific because you want anyone who’s going to respond to the tender to sharpen their pencils,” he said.

Prince Albert Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt said her party challenged the government during question period, saying the NDP would commit to building a new, larger hospital in Prince Albert, not with a P3, and built by Saskatchewan workers and companies. She said they challenged the Sask. Party to do the same.

“We didn’t get a firm commitment from them, but they did claim that they will be committing to a new, expanded hospital,” she said.

“The devil is in the details. I guess we’ll find out more … in Friday’s announcement.”

Rancourt said she’s been advocating for a new, larger hospital “for years now” and has heard promises, but never seen a major commitment from the Sask. Party.

“We know this new, bigger hospital needs to be built and we know it needs to be built right.”

She said that means with Saskatchewan-based companies and workers, “because our taxpayers’ dollars deserve to stay in the province.

“I think while we’re talking about infrastructure we could start talking about a second bridge as well — hopefully, that could be announced soon too,” Rancourt said.

Reiter told reporters the project is a priority because the current facility is too small.

“A number of years ago you had two hospitals there. One was torn down and the capacity wasn’t increased. The population has increased dramatically since then,” Reiter said.

“You have a facility that isn’t large enough to serve that population.”

While the primary reason for the new hospital was the size, Reiter said, as with any new build, the province will look into what services are offered as well.

Premier Moe had previously committed to building a new hospital funded 100 per cent by the province. He reiterated that promise during Question Period Wednesday.

A needs assessment was ordered last year to consider the way forward. It was suspected that the hospital would be announced this year, ahead of the 2020 provincial election.

“We will be making every effort to ensure that the facility matches not only the services that are required today but … into the future,” Moe said during a caucus retreat held in Prince Albert in August.

“As we move forward through the next number of years, the focus, and what we’re hearing not only from the people in Prince Albert but the people in the surrounding areas, is health care,” Moe said.

“The priority is access to a health care facility and an improved health care facility. Right now, the priority is to move forward on a Prince Albert hospital.”

When reached by phone, Mayor Dionne declined to comment.

 Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave was not available for comment.

— with Leader-Post files from Arthur White-Crummey