Hospital expansion society eagerly awaits provincial budget, needs assessment

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
March 7, 2018 - 11:15am

Doctors and community members alike are plowing ahead on the push for hospital expansion in Red Deer.

The Society for Fair and Transparent Health Funding to Central Alberta – founded last month by five local physicians -- met for the first time Tuesday night.

Dr. Paul Hardy says around 75 people showed up in a packed room at the Baymont Inn and Suites. 

“We were talking about how we were going to set up an expanded board for the society beyond just physicians, get some geographic expertise, diversify, and about how we are going to make progress on some of our short term goals, like the needs assessment that is coming out in May,” Hardy says. “And also about how we are going to have a sustainable mechanism to apply pressure and educate the public, educate the government and Alberta Health Services.”

City Councillor Ken Johnston and philanthropist Joan Donald are among those showing interest in joining the society.

Johnston admits that while the message remains largely the same from the last couple years, the forming of this non-profit can make a difference.

“As I envision it, what we’ll have here is a society that is comprised not just of the medical field. The community needs to own this problem if AHS is not listening to the doctors and the provincial government is not listening to the doctors, which is a shame, frankly,” he says. “This non-profit is going to be comprised of community members that are armed with that particular information and it’s a broader voice and a bigger voice.”

Dr. Hardy says the updated needs assessment due out in May, and the provincial budget in March are things the society will be watching very closely.

“You'll probably see some kind of response to the provincial budget [from us]. We don’t necessarily expect anything to come to central Alberta in the provincial budget for healthcare infrastructure because they could be waiting for the needs assessment update,” he points out. “We of course would be delighted if we did get a commitment of some kind, but if we don’t, we'll continue to inform the public.”

Hardy expects the needs assessment to paint a more dire picture than the one from 2015 that showed Red Deer Regional Hospital is short 96 beds, among other things.

According to the society, AHS’s Central Zone has been funded to the tune of $56 million in recent years, while Edmonton has received close to $2 billion, Calgary $3 billion and the North Zone $1 billion. They say Central Zone has received one-tenth of the per-person funding Edmonton has been given and one-twentieth of what Calgary gets.

Hardy says the society plans to meet again in the near future. For up to date information, you can follow the Diagnosis Critical Facebook page.

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