Hospital expansion left off AHS priority project list

By Troy Gillard (Twitter @Troy_Gillard)
January 10, 2018 - 7:24pm Updated: January 10, 2018 - 9:47pm

Seemingly, it’s another tough blow for healthcare in Central Alberta.

Tuesday night, Alberta Health Services released its 2017 Multi-Year Health Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission.

Nine priority projects are listed in the document. Four of them are in Calgary while two are in Edmonton. Lethbridge and Ponoka are also on the list.  

Expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital is not on the priority list. It is, however, on the overall list of 124 potential major capital projects.

In 2014, Red Deer was third on the province’s priority list and was still on the list in 2015 before falling off altogether in 2016.

Dr. Keith Wolstenholme says despite all the public campaigning in recent months, including two rallies and thousands of emails to politicians and health officials, Red Deer’s voice is being ignored.

“It’s really frustrating as a physician in Central Zone, it’s disheartening,” said Wolstenholme, one of several medical practitioners behind the ‘Diagnosis Critical – Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital’ movement.

“I was operating in the hospital today and when I told the other physicians and nurses [about this] the word to describe it was ‘demoralizing.’ People were so devastated that once again we seem to be left out in the cold.”

If nothing else, Wolstenholme feels this setback will steel the resolve of everyone pushing for hospital expansion.

“Eventually, if we apply enough pressure my hope is the decision makers will realize we’re not asking for anything extravagant,” he noted. “We’re just asking for fair and transparent investment. We just want the ability to take care of the patients of central Alberta.”

Wolstenholme says he and his group will continue to do what’s asked of them when it comes to updating planning documents, attending meetings and providing updates to decision makers. They’re also going to continue their plea to the public to continue speaking up.

“Everybody responds to pressure. That includes Alberta Health Services, government, elected officials. If this is important to Central Albertans, and I think it is, then Central Albertans need to make their voices heard.”

The ‘Diagnosis Critical’ group is also working toward becoming a certified nonprofit society. Wolstenholme says they’ll be picking a Board of Directors made up of physicians and other interested community members.

“Hopefully we’ll turn it into a powerful lobby group with the best and correct interests at heart, and be able to use it as another platform to get our message across.”

In the meantime, Wolstenholme says the fight for hospital expansion in Red Deer will go on.

“We haven’t lost all hope. We hope that somebody is listening and will do the right thing.”

Red Deer Regional consistently ranks among the five busiest hospitals in Alberta. In 2015, it was found to be short 96 beds, three operating rooms, and 18 emergency room treatment stretchers.

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