HALIFAX -- The emergency department at Atlantic Canada's largest children's hospital is doubling in size to handle a fast-rising number of patients.

Halifax's IWK Health Centre has seen a 14-per-cent increase in patient visits in the last two years, with more than 33,000 visits to the ER last year.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced $1.4 million for the design development phase on Tuesday.

McNeil also announced $6.9 million for a new MRI scanner and the necessary renovations.

It is expected to replace an aging scanner by the spring of 2020.

A request for proposals for the expanded ER will be issued in the new year, with construction expected to begin during the summer of 2020 at the hospital, which treats children from across the Maritimes.

"A redesigned emergency department will ensure the IWK continues to meet updated standards around patient and staff safety, confidentiality and infection prevention and control," Dr. Shannon MacPhee, chief of emergency medicine at the IWK, said in a statement.

"It will also encourage more innovation amongst care providers and allow the department to better meet the needs of those patients who present with mental health concerns."