The Alberta government has committed $1 million to explore the possibility of Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital becoming a stand-alone facility.
The feasibility study funding announced at a press conference Thursday will be matched by the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation.
"The Stollery Children's Hospital is one of the largest catchment areas of any hospital in North America," health minister Tyler Shandro said at the press conference.
"And yet the Stollery is a hospital within another hospital. Unlike Calgary or Vancouver, Edmonton doesn't have a free standing children's hospital."
Currently the Stollery is part of the University of Alberta Hospital.
"Alberta Health Services will first develop a needs assessment, and that assessment will help us determine if children and families would be better served by a bigger, better, brighter children's hospital dedicated to and set apart for children," Shandro said.
Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta Health Services vice-president and medical director, said it will provide an opportunity to determine what they can do better.
"By taking a closer look at the needs of patients and families, and the physical space, we can ensure that we are doing all that we can to offer world class care in the best possible physical environment," he said.
"Moving forward with these next steps is incredibly exciting and truly encouraging."
Mike House, president and CEO of the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation, said a recent donor survey found 95 per cent of respondents in northern Alberta think the foundation's support of a new children's hospital is vital to the health of their community.
"We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this right for kids who require urgent, acute medical care, both physically and mentally, for their families and generations to come, "he said.
Shandro noted the Stollery currently receives about 300,000 patients each year from across western and northern Canada. It handles everything from broken bones to critical health issues.
"Families rely on the Stollery as western Canada's leading pediatric hospital for heart surgeries and organ transplantation," he said.
"It's the main children's hospital west of Toronto that handles the most complex, and the most serious medical cases."
The assessment will also explore options for construction sites around the University of Alberta Hospital and the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences site.
The study is expected to begin immediately but there is no firm timeline on when it will be complete.