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Alberta Children's Hospital staff member and U of C biology student Julia Tien stands outside of her snazzy new workplace.
Karen Ho/the Gauntlet

Children's Hospital opens its doors

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The first new pediatric hospital to be built in Canada in 20 years is on the University of Calgary's west campus. It opened to the public on Wed., Sept. 27.

"There was a need to have a new hospital because we had outgrown the old space," said Alberta Children's Hospital communications advisor Trisha Lees. "It was at a point where it would have cost more to renovate the old space."

The building cost $253 million. Thirty million dollars were raised through the community, and the Alberta government has pledged to pay the rest.

The hospital is 741,000 square feet, about 60 per cent bigger than the previous facility. The extra 500,000 square feet of working space also means more staff, said Lees.

"We have an extensive recruitment for all staff in the building because it is so much bigger," said Lees. "Over a three-year period we will be hiring 300 new people. We have already hired 100 for the first year."

The old Children's Hospital was built to handle 23,000 emergency visits per year, but was forced to handle twice that. The new hospital is built to deal with 60,000 emergency visits per year and has 20 per cent more beds.

"The hospital is a bright and cheerful place," said Lees. "It has really been designed with kids in mind. We had groups of different kids over five years to help with the design of the hospital and also for some of the services inside."

The hospital has an animal room, giving kids a chance to visit pets. There is also an auditorium for movie nights, interactive play walls and many aquariums throughout the building.

"First of all, it doesn't look like a hospital," said project manager Jim Ebbels. "There are oversized frames around the windows. "It is a very simple plan. There is a main street on the main floor with a central gathering space. It's very, very easy to find your way around the hospital."

Ebbels' architectural firm, Kasian, has a large healthcare studio with several architects and designers who specialize in healthcare facilities, he explained.

"We think it's a fantastic success," said Ebbels. "The project managed to be seamless."

Sixty patients moved to the 133-bed hospital Wed., Sept. 27. Most of the machinery has been transferred and the move is expected to be complete Oct. 20.

"[The new hospital] shows that people in this province value kids," said Lees. "It gives a sense of hope to families that need to use the hospital."

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