Alberta moving ahead with NICU upgrade at Foothills hospital

Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre is among Alberta hospitals earmarked for upgrades using capital funds in the province’s 2021 budget

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Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre is among Alberta hospitals earmarked for upgrades using capital funds in the province’s 2021 budget.

The province will provide $23 million over the next three years and an anticipated $15 million the two following years to partially fund an $83-million renovation to the Foothills neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), adding 19 beds.

Currently, the Foothills NICU has 39 beds and admits three to four newborns each day, making it among Canada’s busiest. The unit, which serves all of southern Alberta, consistently operates at 90 per cent capacity or above.

“This unit manages all high-risk obstetrical deliveries and cares for newborns from across the province who require this care,” Dr. Ted Braun, AHS vice-president and medical director of operations, said at a Thursday news conference.

“It’s a critical resource for thousands of families in the province.”

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The funding for Foothills is new in Alberta’s 2021 budget. It follows a July 2020 capital infrastructure submission by Alberta Health Services requesting funds for the project.

In the submission, AHS said the upgrades are needed due to cramped spaces, lack of infection prevention and control provisions, and hazardous staff work areas.

The Foothills NICU was built 25 years ago and is overutilized in part due to Alberta’s above-average preterm birth rates, which are the highest in the country.

The remaining $45 million of funding for the NICU upgrade will come from the Calgary Health Foundation.

“It’s an opportunity for us to be providing world-class care, right here in Calgary,” Calgary Health Foundation president and CEO Mike Meldrum told Postmedia.

“It will be with the community for many years. Many babies yet to be born will benefit.”

To date, the foundation has raised about $51 million in its $66-million campaign to fund projects that will benefit maternal and newborn health. Donations are still being accepted so the foundation can secure the projects, Meldrum said.

Two other Calgary health-care projects will also receive capital funding through last week’s budget.

The province will fund $59 million for a $73-million project at Rockyview General Hospital that will revamp and move the intensive-care and coronary-care units, as well as the gastrointestinal clinic, with financial support also coming from the Calgary Health Foundation.

As well, more than $18 million will go toward a new cyclotron in Calgary, to create isotopes used in cancer treatments. Currently, Calgary relies on a cyclotron in Edmonton. The money will also fund a manufacturing facility in the city for radiopharmaceuticals, also used to treat diseases including cancer.

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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