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The Alberta government’s upcoming budget is to allocate $20-million over the next three years to advance plans for a stand-alone children’s hospital in the provincial capital.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said Tuesday that the existing Stollery Children’s Hospital sees more than 300,000 patients a year and serves a geographic area of more than 500,000 square kilometres.

“It is among the highest in patient volumes of any children’s hospital in Canada,” LaGrange told a news conference.

“It is clear more space is needed to support the growing number of patients and to ensure our providers can continue treating the unique and complex needs of children and young Albertans.”

Karen Faulkner, interim chief executive officer of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, said the government support is welcome and the project is one step closer to becoming a reality.

“It was never built with kids in mind. Stollery is woven throughout an adult hospital that was built for fewer patients and simpler challenges,” she said.

Faulkner said the foundation hopes to raise up to $250-million from the community to put toward the new hospital.

The 236-bed children’s hospital opened in 2001 and is described as a “hospital within a hospital” inside the University of Alberta Hospital and co-located with the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.

Shelley Cormier has spent the past decade taking her “medically fragile” son and daughter to the hospital for a variety of health issues.

Cormier said her children have received excellent care and she’s grateful, but it’s time for a new children’s hospital to be built somewhere else.

“Alongside our gratitude lies a stark concern. Time and time again we’ve witnessed incidents outside the hospital walls that no child should endure or see,” Cormier said at the news conference.

“From fist fights to drug use, from profanity to intoxication, it begs the question, ‘Should our children, already battling illness and injury, be subjected to such environments?’ I firmly believe that answer is no.”

Cormier said it is time for a new “purpose-built” children’s hospital.

The Alberta government is to table its budget on Thursday.

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