Johnston renews call for hospital expansion

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
June 26, 2017 - 8:36pm Updated: June 28, 2017 - 12:09pm

The call for hospital expansion in Red Deer is being renewed by one city councillor who says it's not worth speculating what's holding the provincial government up in making a decision.

But in his heart of hearts, Ken Johnston believes both Alberta Health Services and the provincial government know what's the right thing to do.

Johnston presented a notice of motion at Monday's council meeting which specifies no fewer than eight areas identified in the December 2015 Needs Assessment by AHS as operating at or beyond capacity.

Johnson choked back tears as he came to read the item 'Cardiac Science Services.' His wife spent close to four months in hospital, including a few days in Calgary and the rest in Red Deer in late 2016 and early 2017 before passing away due to heart issues. She originally had to be airlifted to Calgary because Red Deer lacks a cardiac catheterization lab.

"The doctors -- to their great credit -- their message is simple: their ability to care for you and I is impaired with the conditions at our hospital," he said. "They are stating the facts and certainly the needs assessment done by AHS in 2015 bared those facts out very clearly and the doctors are essentially saying we wonder if the public understands that this issue is so grave at this point."

The sobering number Johnston returns to is the mortality rate for a Central zone resident who suffers a cardiac event, which is 50 to 60 per cent higher than for someone who'd experience the same thing in Calgary or Edmonton.

The other seven areas cited in Johnston's motion (and in the 2015 AHS Needs Assessment) include Interventional and Procedural Services, Emergency Services, Maternal Child Services, Ambulatory Care Services, Addiction and Mental Health Services, Clinical Support Services, and Non-clinical Support Services.

"I'm grateful first of all that the medical community is what it is in our city. Our doctors give extraordinary care here given what they have to work with. I think when we dropped off the capital plan in 2016, that was the straw that broke the camel's back," Johnston said.

"This is an equity issue, it’s a mortality issue, it's a service issue and it's time we need to address it."

The notice of motion returns to council in two weeks.

A public rally is being planned by Diagnosis Critical for September 9, though a time and place is yet to be announced.

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