CALGARY - The Alberta government is moving ahead on a number of major health projects, including a new cancer centre for Calgary, despite unveiling an austerity budget last week.
The province announced in both Edmonton and Calgary on Monday that it will be budgeting $3.4 billion over the next five years for work on hospitals and health-care centres.
It says most of the money, $2.7 billion, is to be spent on ongoing and new construction projects. Maintenance funding is also to increase.
Included in the projects is a new cancer centre to be located at the South Calgary Health Campus.
The centre is to be the first phase of a two-site model for cancer care in Calgary. Future expansion is to occur at the Foothills Medical Centre.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said that there were a lot discussions about the cancer centre during budget deliberations.
"We know that we have to keep building capital. We know that we need a cancer facility here at the South Campus to meet the needs of southern Albertans," he said.
"This was always at the top of the priorities list. There's been a discussion on the best way to build it and where to build it ... this was clearly a facility that was needed."
Prentice said health care is vital to all Albertans, even in challenging fiscal times.
The 2015-16 budget tabled last week increased taxes and fees virtually across the board, while running the largest deficit in Alberta's history at $5 billion. Prentice has said the changes are necessary to make up for lost oil revenue.
Health Minister Stephen Mandel said the new cancer centre should be completed by 2020 and construction should begin in about 15 months.
"We can make sure our health facilities are ready to meet Albertans needs both today and well into the future," he said.
There is also money for women's services at the Peter Lougheed Centre.
Projects in northern Alberta to receive funding include redevelopment of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, expansion of critical care and the surgical centre at the Stollery Children's Hospital and a new continuing care centre in Fort McMurray.
New Wildrose party Leader Brian Jean said the announcements are just another "bad rerun" of broken promises from the government prior to an election call.
"I've seen it first hand in Fort McMurray. Our seniors are still waiting for long-term care beds, even though PC premiers have promised them five different times," Jean said.
"This PC government and Mr. Prentice no longer deserve a blank cheque on their promises."
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