Old hospital slated for demolition

The old High Prairie Health Complex is set to be demolished in the coming months after the provincial government made the announcement Feb. 3. Standing left-right, are Town of High Prairie Councillor Brian Gilroy, High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi, Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk, Big Lakes County Reeve Ken Matthews, High Prairie Health Complex site manager Janet Farney and Peace River MLA Dan Williams, on site at the old hospital.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Almost four years after the buildings were vacated, the old High Prairie Health Complex will be demolished in the coming months.

The Government of Alberta announced plans Feb. 3 to level the old hospital, J.B. Wood Nursing Home and the old EMS station and garage, all owned by Alberta Health Services.

Town of High Prairie council and community leaders are delighted by the long-awaited news.

“Our town council has been working closely with the Alberta government and Alberta Health Services to get this project underway,” Mayor Brian Panasiuk says.

“We’re very excited to see the buildings demolished, making room for new development.”

AHS and the Alberta government will continue to explore options with the Town and other local stakeholders to discuss the future of the 10.46-acre site.

The Town began lobbying the government before the new High Prairie Health Complex opened in April 2017.

Big Lakes County has also supported the Town to persuade the government to push the project.

“We’re pleased that the government decided to proceed with the project,” says Reeve Ken Matthews.

“We’ve been lobbying with the Town for many years because we consider it a regional hospital.”

He trusts the project will spur the local economy and support businesses in the area.

“Hopefully, it will provide much-needed work for local contractors and suppliers,” Matthews says.

Alberta Infrastructure, which is leading the project, will issue a request for proposal in the coming weeks for consulting services for the work.

Demolition of the buildings and remediation of the land are expected to take about 10 months to complete.

Specific timelines will be released when details are confirmed.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the project will open an opportunity for growth.

“Alberta’s government has heard loud and clear from the people of High Prairie that they want this demolition completed and we are getting the job done,” Kenney says.

“Not only will this work create jobs, but it will make way for exciting new development in the heart of the community.”

A petition signed by 527 area residents was presented March 6, 2020 to Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn by the High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The petition will provide ammunition to stress the urgent need to clean up the site,” Rehn said in a story in the South Peace News on March 11, 2020.

“We’re going to try to get it done as soon as possible.”

Rehn became an independent MLA on Jan. 15, 2021.

High Prairie & Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi is thrilled by the announcement.

“This is great news – thank you to the premier and the provincial government for supporting this project,” he says.

“The old buildings are an eyesore and a safety risk and this project makes our whole community happy.”

Until demolition work begins, AHS will continue to implement and monitor security measures to deter vandalism on these vacant buildings.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the community is high on the government’s list.

“High Prairie is a priority area for our government,” Shandro says.

“This is illustrated through the removal of these old buildings and supporting growing healthcare needs at the High Prairie Health Complex, such as the construction on the new renal dialysis clinic.”

The government announced Jan. 6 that construction of a renal dialysis clinic at the hospital was scheduled to start in January 2021 the hospital and is expected to open in early 2022.

A neighbouring MLA welcomes the news about the old hospital.

“A project like this benefits all of northwestern Alberta,” Peace River MLA Dan Williams says.

“Alberta’s government is focused on strategic projects that deliver value and jobs when they’re needed most.”

Buildings at the old health complex site date back about 55 years, the AHS states.

After the old complex closed, the site experienced numerous trespassers and break-ins while two 15-year-old male youths were charged with arson in a fire Sept. 18, 2019.

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, left, accepts a petition from High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi urging the provincial government to demolish the old High Prairie Health Complex, The petition was presented March 6, 2020. The petition, first proposed by James Waikle, was one tool used to convince the government to tear it down.

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