Shovels could be in the ground as early as next winter on a replacement for the Beaverlodge Hospital, mayor Gary Rycroft told the News Wednesday.
The Mountview Health Complex — also known as the new hospital — is one step closer to reality with this week’s announcement a project partner in St. Albert has come on board.
The Town of Beaverlodge and Landrex Inc. has signed a letter of intent, a “critical step” in the project’s development, according to a town media release Wednesday.
"I'm ecstatic and extremely happy we have gotten this far," said Rycroft.
A “robust public process to identify a private partner with aligned values and the expertise and resources to make this project a reality” was secured with Landrex, stated the release.
The Mountview Health Complex Committee (MHCC) was established in the spring of 2020 with the goal to land a hospital replacement utilizing private funds. The committee includes representatives from the Town of Beaverlodge, County of Grande Prairie, the Grande Spirit Foundation and Alberta Health Services.
Rycroft told the News Landrex will be providing design services and locating another financial partner, along with being involved in working with special engineers that build medical facilities.
He said the letter of intent is a confirmation of a joined partnership that will move forward with the project.
"We have to get through the design phase so we know how big the building is going to be and what it's going to cost to build and then we'll be able to understand what it's going to cost for Alberta Health Services to lease it," said Rycroft.
Next steps will involve community engagement to ensure the project receives input from residents and key stakeholders, according to the media release.
It is expected that these sessions will be held in the new year.
“Replacement of the Beaverlodge Hospital is something that this and previous councils have always been aligned on,” said Rycroft.
“This facility has been critical in serving the medical needs of both Beaverlodge and west County residents since the 1950s. The new Mountview Health Complex will continue this service to the public way into the future.
“I look forward to working with Landrex, our regional partners and Beaverlodge residents as we move forward with design and construction of the Mountview Health Complex,” added Rycroft.
It was 10 months ago the Town of Beaverlodge announced it was seeking a P3 partner to build a new health complex.
Landrex is an Alberta-based real estate development company that specializes in residential, commercial, and multi-family developments. Since its inception in 1972, Landrex has developed more than 6,000 residential lots, hundreds of multi-family units and built and owned over 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space.
In January 2021 Beaverlodge issued a request for partnership (RFP) titled “Mountview Health Care Campus” to the provincial online resource Alberta Purchasing Connection, seeking an operator or capital partner to contribute capital and expertise.
In February, The County of Grande Prairie voted to contribute up to $104,000 toward the first stage of a new Beaverlodge health complex.
Consultancy on the project actually commenced in April 2020 and Beaverlodge chief administrative officer Jeff Johnston told the News then that the costs of that component were expected to come in at approximately $208,000. The county’s contribution will go toward that; Beaverlodge will supply the remaining $104,000, said Johnston.
The health complex will be built on the 22 acres donated to the town by the McFarlane family approximately 11 years ago.
MHCC has opted to refer to the proposed facility as a health complex rather than a hospital, but Rycroft said this is mainly a matter of terminology.
“It will be doing everything this hospital is doing now,” Rycroft told the News earlier this year.
A new hospital has long been on the wish lists of west county residents.
Rycroft said he first met with Alberta Heath in 1986 (as a firefighter and then-owner of the ambulance service) to discuss the hospital’s foundational issues.
In the spring of 2015, the Conservative province tagged $2 million in its budget to begin planning a new health complex here. Beaverlodge, Airdrie and Sylvan Lake were communities selected by the province for health care facilities based on a new template design that would be repeatable, scale-able, and cost-effective, according to AHS.
Press secretary Steve Buick told the News then that the design of an urgent care centre would adapted for all three communities. “Paying for design only once should make the projects overall much cheaper,” he said. Some months later, the province shelved the rural-hospital template that would have served as a model for Beaverlodge.
Just a few weeks later, the NDP came to power in 2015 and the Beaverlodge hospital disappeared from the province’s capital budget.
The NDP was defeated in 2019, but a replacement for the hospital has yet to make a reappearance in government budgets.
Rycroft is an MHCC member along with town councillors Gena Jones and Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus and county councillors Bob Marshall and Peter Harris.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News