Alberta's new government is hoping to nurse a sick hospital project back to health after it went millions over budget.
Alberta Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman said the Grande Prairie Hospital Project has gone $89 million over the $247.5 million budget and is scheduled to finish a year behind schedule. The minister placed the blame with the previous administration.
"The main factor is that the former government announced a project that put shovels in the ground without properly planning or realistic timelines," Hoffman said.
The NDP won a majority government in Alberta earlier this year over the long-serving PC Party. She explained that major contracts that were originally tendered in 2014 came in significantly higher than originally budgeted.
This includes electrical tenders that came in 73 per cent higher than pre tender estimates and an original drywall tender that came in 233 per cent over the estimated budget.
"This meant that contracts could not be awarded and the project was delayed," she said. "If there had been proper due diligence done before this project was announced I believe it would have been anticipated and that the community could have been presented with a reasonable and realistic timeline."
Despite the setbacks, Hoffman said construction on the project is ongoing. Construction on the exterior shell is about 70 per cent done and there are 200 people working on site. However, Hoffman said drastic changes must be made to reign in the project.
"To begin getting project costs back in line with the $247.5 million budget, we've implemented a comprehensive set of cost saving actions," she said.
This includes designing space for mental health to be complete at a later date and reducing the number of operating rooms from 10 to eight. The team will also be redesigning and simplifying budget interiors and reducing the number of finishings.
Hoffman added that later this month Alberta Infrastructure will be re-tendering the interior fit out package that includes mechanical, electrical and all interior finishes such as drywall, flooring and ceilings. Renovations on the Queen Elizabeth II hospital have been put on hold.
"If the tender results are in line with the budget, we would expect interior construction to start very early in 2016," Hoffman said.
"By implementing these measures, we are extending the construction period by about a year ... None of these decisions were taken lightly."
The new hospital features an increase in the ICU spaces and allows for growth to the emergency department. The new site will have 172 beds and capacity to add an additional 60 in the future.
Plans include a state-of-the-art cancer centre with two radiation vaults, bringing radiation therapy services to the community and the surrounding region. The centre is part of a province-wide strategy to open a corridor of cancer care treatment centres across Alberta. Grande Prairie will become the fifth city in the province to offer radiation therapy, joining Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer.
There is also about 4,000 square metres for the nursing and medical careers program from the Grande Prairie Regional College.
The project is being developed by Alberta Health Services and Alberta Infrastructure.
It is owned by Alberta Health Services. The site is managed by Graham Group Ltd.