Construction of the $1.8-billion Calgary Cancer Centre is now complete, with the province handing over the keys to Alberta Health Services on Friday.
AHS is taking over operations of the facility, which spans more than two-million square feet, as the project enters its final stages.
Don Morris, Calgary zone clinical department head of oncology with AHS, said although construction is complete, there is a lot more work to do until the centre can open its doors.
That work includes everything from commissioning medical equipment and moving in furniture to training staff.
"It's a significant amount of work to be done and that's why people are a little bit stupefied in terms of, 'Why can't it be done in a month or two?'" Morris said at a news conference at the cancer centre on Friday.
"It's a huge endeavour and [requires] a huge team to do it."
Once the building is up and running, the centre will have 160 inpatient beds and 100 patient exam rooms, according to a news release from the province. The centre is expected to be open by early 2024.
'Lives and loved ones will be saved'
At Friday's news conference, Nathan Neudorf, deputy premier and minister of infrastructure, said the new cancer centre will be one of the best facilities of its kind in not only Canada but the world.
"It is a significant game changer in the battle against cancer, a state-of-the-art facility where lives and loved ones will be saved and miracles will occur," he said.
Minister of Health Jason Copping said the new centre will be a major boost to the province's health-care system.
"We need more capacity for cancer care," he said.
Copping said the centre will provide a range of services and resources, including cancer screening, early detection, research, treatment development, clinical trials, education and patient care.
Copping said that while the province has made progress over the years in preventing cancers — detecting them early and treating them more effectively — nearly half of Albertans will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime
He said the province is doing more cancer surgeries today than before the pandemic. According to Copping, in 2018, about 60 per cent of cancer surgeries were done within the recommended time in Alberta. Now that number is closer to 70 per cent.
"Now that's still not good enough. Every patient should get their surgery within the standards set by specialists. But it's moving in the right direction," Copping said.