ECA Breaking Ground | Winter 2023
Project Profile | Covenant Wellness Community

Healthcare and community aren’t often considered interdependent. The term “health care” often evokes images of physicians’ offices, hospitals, ambulances, and waiting rooms. But in the heart of Mill Woods, blocks from the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, Covenant Health and Rohit are working to bring the two concepts together and reimagine the future of health care in Alberta.

Plans for the Covenant wellness community were announced in 2022. As a public-private partnership (P3), the joint initiative leverages private investment to support needed public health infrastructure. In total, the wellness community is projected to cost $250 million over five phases of construction. The first phase is the community health centre and is expected to be complete in 2025, three years after the project was first unveiled.

The project has been in the works for a while. Back in 2017, Covenant Health purchased the old Grant MacEwan Southeast Campus, intending to retrofit the building to support ambulatory care services and help relieve capacity pressures at Grey Nuns. “The Grey Nuns was originally built to see 25,000 emergency visits per year,” said Karen Macmillan, senior operating officer of acute services at Covenant Health Canada. “It currently sees 75,000 a year. The hospital’s emergency room space is not big enough to accommodate all those people, to provide them privacy and excellent care in a dignified way.”

Further complicating capacity concerns, the Grey Nun’s outpatient care department is contiguous to the emergency room, limiting the potential expansion of the acute care space. “We wanted to move the non-urgent ambulatory services and outpatients out of acute care because it is expensive real estate and not the best place to serve outpatients,” said Macmillan. “Doing so would give us the ability to expand our emergency department and better serve patients according to their needs.” Converting a purpose-built postsecondary building to support health clinics presented problems, though.

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