Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced last Thursday that the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital is scheduled to be open to the public for Dec. 4.

The total cost of the facility is $850 million, says AHS in a release.

“I’m just really pleased that we have a definitive opening date for the new regional hospital in Grand Prairie,” Travis Toews, MLA Grande Prairie-Wapiti, told Town & Country News.

“I think one of the really positive aspects of the opening is, of course, it will include additional cancer treatment, additional radiation therapy which will reduce or even possibly in many cases eliminate the need for residents of the region to travel to Edmonton and elsewhere for treatment.”

“You know there’s a lengthy process to commission equipment, making sure the right equipment has been ordered, and it wasn’t out of date, not to mention staffing challenges as well,” said County of Grande Prairie reeve Leanne Beaupre, “the fact that Dec. 4 is the date it is fantastic,”

The Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Hospital will continue to provide healthcare services; according to AHS, the exact scope of services is still to be determined.

The new hospital will include two new radiation vaults that will make Grande Prairie the fifth city in Alberta to offer radiation therapy.

AHS took possession of the hospital in July 2020 and began commissioning, which included a deep cleaning of the facility.

The hospital will be hiring new positions for the hospital, and AHS says recruitment and training have been ongoing throughout the commissioning.

Critics have said that staffing may be an issue going forward.

NDP leader Rachel Notley visited the city in July along with local nurses who say that the current QEII hospital is currently understaffed and that since the new hospital has more beds this will continue to be an issue.

“AHS certainly communicated to me that they’re actively recruiting staff right now the staff they need for the new hospital, so that’s positive,” said Toews.

GPRH will have 243 beds compared to the QEII’s 163 beds.

The hospital first broke ground on July 29, 2011, and was expected to be open in 2014 at the time. Construction problems plagued the project and caused multiple delays.

An opening ceremony is expected, with details to be shared at a later date.