"Really, what it comes down to is we want central Albertans to be aware of how they're being shortchanged when it comes to the delivery of healthcare and healthcare facilities in the Central Zone."
Dr. Kym Jim says this is the message he and other local practitioners are trying to drive home by hosting an information session later this month in Red Deer.
The “State of the Hospital Address” is scheduled for 4 – 6 p.m. on February 28 at the Baymont Inn and Suites. Doctors have also started the “Diagnosis Critical. Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital” Facebook page for residents to learn more and have their say.
A needs assessment done by Alberta Health Services in 2015 found Red Deer Regional is in need of 96 more inpatient beds, 18 more beds in the emergency department, and three more operating rooms.
The biggest concern Jim and other doctors have is that this continues to slide further down the province’s list of infrastructure priorities. After being third on the list in 2014, it was left off altogether in 2016.
“There has been many years of inequity in funding of healthcare infrastructure, and this document really is something that sets it back for a generation because it doesn't pay adequate attention to the needs of central Albertans,” Jim adds.
Even more concerning than the lack of capacity at Red Deer Regional, Jim says, is the lack of new services being offered to a growing region.
“There are programs that used to exist that only could be delivered in Edmonton or Calgary 20 years ago, but with changes in technology and growth of the population in central Alberta, many of those services are now warranted in central Alberta,” he noted. “The way it's designed right now is people have to travel to Edmonton and Calgary to get certain services that really should exist closer to home."
Jim says offering new health services in Red Deer would go a long way toward alleviating pressures at other hospitals.
"That's really what it's about, the fact that expansion of the Red Deer Hospital can help with problems in Edmonton and Calgary as well. We are all part of the same system, but why would you put services in Edmonton and Calgary and make people travel, congest hospitals there when the services can be put here in Red Deer? It is really illogical what is being proposed based on this 2016 planning document [the census]."
Jim says local residents are encouraged to step up and share their thoughts with the province.
“There is an opportunity here for Alberta Health and AHS to make a difference that benefits central Albertans, but putting services in there is a solution to this."
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