Fort McMurray continuing care facility opens after years of delays

EDMONTON — Fort McMurray’s Willow Square Continuing Care Centre opened its doors on Wednesday after nearly a decade of delayed timelines.

Located merely a few steps away from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, the facility cost $102 million and was completed under budget, the province said.

Willow Square faced nearly a decade of delays, including the 2016 Horse River wildfire, 2020 April flood, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda said in a statement that it will be the most modern facility for seniors in Alberta.

“Despite nature throwing everything it had at this project, I am pleased that the people of Fort McMurray are finally able to open the doors of the Willow Square Continuing Care Centre,” Panda said.

“The grand opening of Willow Square is significant for the community of Fort McMurray and is worth celebrating,” said Premier Jason Kenney, in a statement.

“This modern centre will provide excellent quality of life and greater access to care for seniors in the region. This underscores our commitment to expand services to seniors across the province and to provide resident-focused care when and where they need it.”

Thirty-nine residents from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre’s long-term care unit marked the first people to move into Willow Square.

The building will have 108 single continuing care rooms for supportive living patients. According to the province, there is space for 36 more beds if required.

Continuing care

A photo of one of the 108 beds within the new Willow Square Continuing Care Centre facility (Source: AHS)

The care centre includes gardens, 24-hour monitoring, a library, hair salon, sensory room, café, several multi-purpose rooms, and outdoor courtyards.

Alberta Health Services is currently planning to repurpose the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre’s former continuing care space.

Former Premier Jim Prentice purchased the land Willow Square was built on back in 2014, but ground breaking and construction did not begin until April 2018.

“I am pleased that Willow Square is officially open and residents are moving into their new home,” said Tyler Shandro, minister of health, in a statement.

“This is a long-awaited, momentous day for seniors and vulnerable Albertans in Fort McMurray. It is also an important day for families, knowing their loved ones will receive high-quality care in the heart of the community.”

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