GRANDE PRAIRE, ALTA. – The wait is finally over as the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital (GPRH) opened its doors on Saturday.
The hospital began accepting patients at 6 a.m., which marked the closure of the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Hospital.
“(GPRH) has a huge benefit to the County of Grande Prairie and beyond,” said Leanne Beaupre, county reeve.
“It’s a state-of-the-art facility that I think there’s only one other hospital in Alberta that has the same kind of patient care system.”
The patient transfer from the QEII to the GPRH took about 11 hours, according to Stacy Greening of Alberta Health Services (AHS).
“The teams did really great work on the weekend in terms of preparing patients and then transporting and receiving those patients,” Greening told the News.
“We were well ahead of schedule throughout the day and actually completed our move ahead of where we thought we would be for the day.”
A total of 99 patients were relocated from the QEII to the new hospital.
“There were 1,192 AHS staff members involved in the move, along with 24 physicians and 95 volunteers,” said AHS.
The first patient at the hospital was newborn Hudson Packard, who was the first to be transferred to the hospital with his parents Kelsi Ching and Tyler Packard, according to AHS on Twitter.
The first baby to be born at the GPRH was Ezekiel Axel Wiebe on Sunday at 7:35 a.m., according to an AHS video.
The move used 17 different emergency medical services (EMS) vehicles, including eight ambulances, two critical care units, one neonatal intensive care (NICU) ambulance, a 40-foot multi-patient EMS bus, four non-urgent transport units, and a recreation therapy bus, according to AHS.
The $850 million hospitals will come with many new improvements over the QEII, including 11 operating room suites and two radiation vaults dedicated to cancer care.
The new hospital will be the fifth hospital to offer radiation therapy and the first in the North Zone. Previously, patients had to travel to Edmonton for radiation treatments.
Beaupre said she remembers 10 years ago when the ground was broken for the hospital as well as the ongoing work of advocating for the radiation vaults.
“We know that our first patient is being scanned and prepped for their radiation therapy, which will occur in January,” said Greening.
The new hospital has made many considerations for patients and their families: In-room couches that convert to beds, family rooms for overnight stays, and spacious waiting areas with multiple charging ports for electronics.
Greening noted that all patient rooms are single occupancy with sleeping space for their family.
“This long-awaited new hospital was purposely designed with the patient and family experience in mind, and we look forward to caring for the community here,” she said.
The hospital had an expected opening date of 2014 and was long delayed by multiple problems during the construction phase.
In July 2020, AHS took over the hospital for commissioning, deep cleaning of the facility, and training of new staff.
“We’re doing our best in terms of recruiting staff,” Greening told Town & Country News in November.
“There’s global shortages for healthcare providers right now, and that’s not unique to Grande Prairie.”
Most of the staff has moved over from the QEII, and AHS has added about 200 staff to the GPRH, including 10 physicians, said Greening.
In July, Grande Prairie area nurses raised the alarm that beds were closed in QEII due to staffing shortages.
The GPRH will have 243 beds compared to the QEII’s 163 beds, says AHS.
This summer, nurses questioned how the region would staff the new larger hospital when it couldn’t staff the current one.
“The QEII will remain open for some ambulatory healthcare services, including dialysis, community-based rehabilitation services and Mackenzie Place continuing care, all acute or inpatient clinical services will be provided at the new hospital,” said AHS in a release.
“We are proud to be offering expanded healthcare services in this beautiful, modern setting,” says AHS President and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.
“The first emergency department visit at the new hospital took place at approximately 6:45 a.m.,” said AHS in a Monday news release.
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