City councillor takes action on Red Deer hospital need

Ken Johnston brings forward a Notice of Motion at Monday night’s council

City Councillor Ken Johnston said the lack of capital funding and the state of the Red Deer Regional Hospital is a direct determent to the quality of life in Red Deer and surrounding area. He put forward a Notice of Motion at City council on Monday regarding the issue.

He discussed the need to hospital expansion, and said when it comes to his own personal situation, the cardiac shortfall is the most critical issue on the list.

“I don’t want to put cardiac necessarily ahead of somebody that needs a hip replacement, but if I think of something that’s going to have a mortality impact then cardiac is the issue that we need to put our shoulder to the wheel,” said Johnston.

The Red Deer Regional Hospital is the fourth most referred to facility within Alberta Health Services, officials say. In a December 2015 Needs Assessment of the hospital, AHS stated that, “Programs which are operating either at or beyond capacity within the Central Zone have been targeted, analyzed and described in this Needs Assessment.”

Some of the programs include emergency services, cardiac science services, ambulatory care services, addiction and mental health services and more.

Johnston said it’s important for the City to make a statement and discuss the issue. He said the Municipal Government Act empowers cities to speak on behalf of their citizens if quality of life is impaired.

“It’s important for the City to be able to add their voice to a very concerned and dedicated passionate group of physicians who came out in October and sounded the alarm bells mainly around the cardiac issue.”

He said after he was personally vested in the issue in November erratically through many days with his wife, he began to learn that the issues were far deeper than cardiac.

In the 2016 Alberta Health Services Multi-Year Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission, the Red Deer Regional Hospital was no longer identified in the list of priorities and was excluded from provincial capital funding.

“We were on the capital plan, we were fourth on the capital plan, and now we find ourselves not even on a capital plan so we have to react as a City and certainly as a councillor, as a spokesperson for people in the City, that needs to be addressed,” said Johnston.

Johnston, along with Mayor Tara Veer and MLAs have had some informal meetings with AHS.

Johnston said this is a Central Zone issue, and said that with Red Deer being the referring hospital, it draws in much more from Hanna to the east, right to Edson in the northwest.

“We will now, I think, take this issue, collaborate with our other municipalities around us and get it addressed that way. I think that’s the most efficient.”

In terms of what outcomes he’s looking for, he said that AHS has to realize that if somebody suffers a heart attack, and even if the life is saved, the rehabilitation costs for people to get back and be productive are far higher than if that person got an intervention surgery in Red Deer.

He said there’s multi-facets around the issue of health care in Red Deer when looked at from the perspective of people wanting to move to the City, and he said it could depend on someone’s age.

“So there’s an economic reality to it. Where the other part of that issue lies is attracting professionals that will come to Red Deer,” he said, referring to cardiologists, respiratory technicians, etc.

He said those folks need to look at Red Deer’s hospital and its capacity and say professionally “Where am I better served – to save lives or to rehabilitate people?”

Johnston’s Notice of Motion will come back at a later meeting for discussion around members of council advocating to the Province of Alberta, specifically the Ministry of Health regarding the infrastructure needs of the hospital. Also to be discussed in his motion is for the province to be urged to consider reinstating the hospital to the capital priorities list as identified in the 2015 Capital Submission for the purpose of ensuring timely and accessible health service equity for the citizens of the Central Zone.