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Alberta deferring $637 million in maintenance to health facilities: Liberals

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EDMONTON - Alberta is $637 million behind in maintenance for its hospitals, clinics, and care centres, the opposition Liberals said Monday.

Party leader Raj Sherman said the deficit number was in documents obtained under freedom of information rules.

The total tab comes from buildings across the province, he said, including Edmonton's troubled Misericordia Hospital.

Just over a week ago, a burst pipe at that facility forcing the cancellation of 126 surgeries and 170 exploratory procedures.

It's the latest in a string of infrastructure problems plaguing the 45-year-old west-end hospital. There have been elevator outages, heating and cooling issues and exhaust fumes.

"(The Misericordia) has been run down so much, we actually need a whole brand new hospital," Sherman told a news conference at the legislature.

"Ten years from now, if this maintenance is not done (across the board), we're going to have 10 Misericordias that happen all at the same time — and that's going to put patient care at risk."

Sherman said the province should take the extra $1 billion a year it is getting in health transfers from the federal government and direct it into health maintenance.

The documents do not list the types of repairs or upgrades needed.

But Parker Hogan, spokesman for Alberta Infrastructure, said any problems that could affect the safety of staff, visitors or patients is taken care of right away.

"If it fails and that impacts the health and safety of that facility, it will be replaced immediately," said Hogan.

He said current deferred maintenance accounts for three per cent of the total value of all health infrastructure.

Hogan said it's not a cut and dried issue.

When something like a furnace or a roof hits its targeted end date, it has to be booked at its replacement cost, he said.

"(But) we may be able to make it run for another five years. We may be able to make it run for another two years," said Hogan.

He said 96 per cent of health facilities have been evaluated as being in acceptable condition, with work being done to bring the other four per cent up to grade.

Foothills General Hospital in Calgary tops the list with almost $81 million in deferred maintenance.

The Misericordia is second at $43 million and Edmonton's downtown Royal Alexandra Hospital is third at $39 million.

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