After 10 years of construction, the $850 million Grande Prairie Regional Hospital (GPHR) opened its doors to patients Saturday morning.
The GPRH has 10 operating rooms, a dedicated obstetrics suite, and 243 beds, including 28 serving as a mental health unit and 32 acute care spaces, compared to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital’s 181, the previous facility serving the region.
The new facility is intended to serve 11,000 inpatient and 65,000 emergency room visits, in addition to completing around 12,000 surgeries.
The GPRH will serve a catchment area as far north as High Level and into the North West Territories, with patients as far south as Grande Cache and east as Peace River.
“It is super exciting,” said Stacy Greening, Alberta Health Services (AHS) Grande Prairie supervisor.
“We have waited a long time to open this facility, and it is just such a blessing for the community,” she added. “I can’t think of a better day.”
The hospital is now one of five sites in the province to offer radiation therapy — a first for northern Alberta.
“Patients from this area of the province no longer have to travel to Edmonton, and that’s a 10-hour round trip for people if they’re driving,” Greening said.
Every patient will have their own room with sleep space for visiting family.
“This is about bringing care as close to home as possible,” Greening added.
CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS PLAGUE PROJECT
Initially announced in 2007, ground was broken on July 29, 2011, with a projected completion date of 2014. That date changed to 2018, but by 2015 the province said the project was two years behind schedule and $89 million over budget.
In 2018, the NDP government dismissed the contractor, Graham Construction, and halted construction.
Graham Construction said the province was to blame for costs overruns and delays as it continued to change designs so many times that completed work had to be torn down.
A new contractor, Clark Builders, won the bid to continue construction on the hospital with work completed three months ahead of schedule.
In July last year, AHS took possession of the facility and installed equipment alongside performing a deep clean.
The hospital began accepting patients at 6 a.m. Saturday.
The QEII will no longer accept patients and focus solely on ambulatory care, with all people currently undergoing treatment being transferred to the new facility.
Approximately 130 to 150 patients will be transferred from the QEII and other health care clinics across the province. Officials estimate all the transfers to take approximately 18 hours.
In July, local health care workers and the Official Opposition raised concerns that the current QEII hospital is understaffed, and since the new facility has even more beds, capacity challenges could persist.
Greening says AHS has a dedicated recruitment team that is already seeing results.
“We’ve actually been successful in recruiting over 200 staff and 10 physicians,” she said. “We’re going to continue to grow.
“What’ve noticed actually as we’ve been posting positions is that individuals are attracted to the opportunity to work in the new facility.”
‘CULMINATION OF YEARS OF ANTICIPATION’
Dr. Alika Lafontaine, GPRH facility chief for anesthesia, said the general feeling with staff at the facility is joy.
“Everyone is very, very excited about being in the new building,” Lafontaine said. “Today’s been a culmination of years of anticipation for this day.
“This new hospital is really meaningful to me because it’s delivering on a promise we made several years ago to our population here in the north, our patients,” she added. “We should really look at this opportunity as a growth opportunity.
“It’s just the beginning of a new story for Alberta’s north and helping to rebuild our health care system after the challenges of the past couple years, but also looking to the future. Making it a place that we could both train and recruit new health care workers.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Alex Antoneshyn and Jeremy Thompson, and The Local Journalism Initiative
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