12/02/2014 06:26 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST

180 Potential Projects In Plan For Edmonton Area Hospitals

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EDMONTON - Alberta Health Services has released the first phase of its plan to deal with health-care facilities in the Edmonton area over the next 15 years.

But critics say the documents show the system is already overwhelmed.

The agency expects the population of the area to grow by 33 per cent by 2030 and the number of seniors is expected to more than double, growing 121 per cent, during that time.

Chief health operations officer Deb Gordon says 180 potential projects were identified in the plan.

Work is already underway on some, including expanding the neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, adding an acute stroke unit at the University of Alberta.

Medical director for northern Alberta, Dr. David Mador, says officials know there are a long list of problems with some of the older buildings, such as the Misericordia Hospital.

"That’s not necessarily a cause for alarm," he said "These are large complex facilities that require ongoing maintenance and investment. And we are maintaining and investing in those sites."

Gordon likened the situation to any home.

"As a building ages, it does have infrastructure issues," she said. "Its kind of like when your hot water tank or your furnace at home break at home. You find those issues and you remediate them. We’ve invested significant dollars, with the help of the government of Alberta, in remediating those problems. There are major maintenance programs underway."

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says stories about people waiting a long time for emergency room care are common and this report shows that infrastructure is part of the problem.

"Up until now, and for very good reason, the conversation has been about the shortage of (intensive care) beds, the inter-relationship with long-term care beds, all that kind of thing — all very relevant," said Notley.

"But what these documents are also saying is that the infrastructure itself — and the failure of the infrastructure — is also now contributing to the problems in these ERs."

Notley noted that even fairly new facilities, such as Edmonton’s Northeast Community Health Centre, are struggling to keep up.

"(It) was opened just a few years ago, it was designed to handle about 25,000 people a year in ER, and it’s actually managing just over 50,000 right now," Notley said.

(CHED, The Canadian Press)

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