Work is now underway to expand the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert.

Monday afternoon representatives from the province along with the City of Prince Albert were on hand for a sod turning ceremony. Currently construction crews are working on expanding the parking lot, which will compliment the new hospital tower and expanded facilities.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said the expansion of the parking lot is an important first step in the project. He explained the larger hospital will make Prince Albert a hub when it comes to providing health care to people across the region, including for people in the north.

“It’s certainly going to help, we had a step forward with the NICU that was brought in just recently within Prince Albert, speaking to staff there, now they don’t have to move the little ones down to Jim Pattison Children Hospital,” he said.

Merriman did not provide a firm timeline in regards to when the expanded parking lot would be finished and when work would start on the new tower.

None of the leadership from the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) were present at the ceremony Monday, however Shirley Woods, director of health and social development for the Tribal Council was on hand. Woods said PAGC has been involved in the project in a number of areas, including with the design. Woods explained there will be space in the new facility for traditional practices and added people will notice the Tribal Council’s influence when they are in the new building.

“We want it to have more than just one space, we want it to be part of the entire hospital, so whatever floor your on, there will be an Indigenous presence,” she said.

To ensure that all 12 of the PAGC member First Nations are heard when it comes to the expanded hospital, Woods said they have been visiting communities and speaking with people to get their thoughts. The PAGC has also worked to keep their member First Nations in the loop when it comes putting in place their priorities in regards to the hospital.

“We’ve done engagement sessions where we have gotten input and we will continue to do so,” she said.

(Heavy equipment working on the Victoria Hospital’s new parking lot. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)

(Top Photo: Dignitaries pose with shovels for the official groundbreaking. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)