01/16/2015 02:06 EST | Updated 03/18/2015 05:59 EDT

Alberta NDP says hospital infrastructure years behind because of neglect

CALGARY - Alberta's NDP leader says the safety of patients and health-care workers is at risk because the government has neglected hospital infrastructure for years.

Rachel Notley released documents Friday from a freedom-of-information request that show more than $100 million worth of maintenance projects are required at three Calgary hospitals — Foothills, Rockyview General and the Peter Lougheed Centre.

Notley says work that hasn't been done includes installation of fire sprinklers, removal of asbestos and several roof replacements.

"We're not talking about having great designs in the lobby or anything. We're talking about things like fire suppression, we're talking about things like sprinkler systems," Notley said at a Calgary news conference.

"In Foothills Hospital alone we're looking at something like $6.3 million of uncompleted work done with respect to fire safety."

Notley suggests it's a problem throughout the province and some of the work was ordered six years ago. She said despite financial booms the work has not been completed.

"Millions of Albertans rely on these hospitals to be safe and secure places that provide high quality care when they or their loved ones are sick or injured," she said.

"The PC's chronic neglect of basic infrastructure maintenance put patients' care at risk."

A spokesman for Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel said the information is nothing new and was raised in the legislature last fall.

"We're not threatened at all by any of the information they released. It's not new and we're fine with it. The minister was pleased to rise in the house every day and talk about maintenance," said spokesman Steve Buick.

"But it's wrong to tell people their hospitals are not safe. The bottom line is really clear — the hospitals are among the country's best."

Buick couldn't say if the maintenance issue would be addressed in the spring budget, but said it is being discussed as a high priority.

"For a decade and longer we have fallen behind somewhat on maintenance. We all know that. It's not new. You'd find the same challenges in highways, in schools, in any province in the country," Buick said.

"It's only natural that all of us tend to focus on what's new instead of what's old and needs repair."

Notley said with Alberta revenues falling off sharply because of low oil prices the government should consider borrowing money to make sure the maintenance is completed.

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