It's the announcement Sylvan Lakers have been waiting six years to hear.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman was at town hall Monday afternoon to share that expanded health care service is finally on its way.
The Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre will be renovated to provide ambulatory care for injuries such as stitches and basic fractures, 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Lab and diagnostic imaging services are also on their way.
“This is a success story years in the making, and today’s announcement will impact us, positively, for years to come,” said Susan Samson, Chair, Sylvan Lake and Area Urgent Care Committee.
“[It’s] such a great announcement for our community,” an excited Mayor Sean McIntyre added. “Not just inside Sylvan Lake, but the entire area as well, all of our neighbouring municipalities really threw all of their effort behind Sylvan Lake to see this facility serve not just our residents, but the region as well.”
Hoffman said the work toward Monday’s announcement began shortly after she was elected in May 2015.
“I’m well aware of the promises that have been made by past governments that didn’t come to fruition and I understand the frustration,” she noted. “I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to work with the community and come up with a solution that will help as many people as possible be served close to home.”
A joint task force was established after Hoffman met face to face with the Urgent Care Committee last winter. Hoffman said previous announcements from the former PC government regarding new health services for Sylvan Lake never had a hope of becoming reality.
“There was no money in any budgets that had been passed to support that, and Sylvan Lake wasn’t the only community in a situation like that where they thought they were moving ahead with something.”
Work is to begin this spring and have the new health services open to the public early next year. Hoffman says details will be worked out at a future date to hire additional staff to provide the expanded service.
The province is committing $2 million for the project, while the committee is handing over $197,000 from a trust fund, raised through various events over the past six years, to purchase new equipment.
Hoffman gave kudos to the community-based campaign for their advocacy and hard work.
“It’s so nice that so many folks from the surrounding area got together, left the egos at the door, sat down around the table and worked with the provincial government and Alberta Health Services to make sure we can provide that expanded care and make sure we stretch the resources as far as possible in a way that’s good for the community,” she said.
McIntyre was also quick to thank the community for all they’ve done.
“They’ve been active, they’ve been patient, they’ve been everything that they could be and now to see their efforts be rewarded by the government with a good news announcement like this I think is very rewarding and something we can all celebrate.”
Dr. Brad Bahler, a lifelong resident of Sylvan Lake, says the announcement is a huge help for local health care providers, who are giving after-hours service with no support whatsoever.
“That model is totally unsustainable from a practitioner’s standpoint,” Bahler explained. “So I think this will actually bring new life to the practitioner group as well and really help us grow and remain sustainable moving forward.”
While 24/7 service was not announced on Monday, McIntyre says that’s an issue to save for another day.
“I think right now, it’s important to take pause and reflect on the great milestone that we’ve reached today,” he noted. “As our population grows and as the regional population grows, Alberta Health Services and the health ministry will have to keep an eye on what services are needed and appropriate for the area. But today we are very happy with the announcement that we have.”
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