The issue of over-crowding and a critical lack of infrastructure funding at the Red Deer Regional Hospital is continuing to gain momentum across the community, officials say.
Late last month, crowds gathered at the Baymont Inn & Suites and Conference Centre heard the Red Deer Regional Hospital has been massively short-changed over the years funding-wise from the province in terms of being able to keep up with local population growth and service demand. The event, called a State of the Hospital Address, was held by Diagnosis Critical – Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital.
A June rally is also in the works, officials say.
“I think that when people went home (from the State of the Hospital Address), they were shocked at the funding discrepancies that exist,” said Dr. Kym Jim, of the Diagnosis Critical group.
“It speaks to how sensitive an issue this is overall,” he said, referring to the turn-out.
“Also, these are also needs that are only going to increase,” he said, adding that people would prefer to be treated closer to home than have to go to Calgary or Edmonton. He questioned whether the government really understood that some of these services could be delivered in Red Deer.
“In many cases, the expertise exists. What’s missing is the infrastructure and the programs – and then these programs could be delivered. They could be delivered cost effectively as well.
“This situation needs to be rectified. The population is here. Edmonton and Calgary have grown tremendously over the past 20 years, but so has Central Alberta,” he said. “Think of all of the jobs that this would support in Central Alberta is these services were here. Think of all of the tax dollars that people are sending out of this community in Central Alberta to support jobs in Edmonton and Calgary in health care.”
Meanwhile, at last month’s meeting, organizers said the lack of health care infrastructure spending that Central Alberta has received over the past many years has led to extremely serious consequences for health care in Central Alberta.
On the group’s facebook page, it notes the, “Red Deer Regional Hospital is consistently amongst the top five busiest hospitals in Alberta and serves 450,000 to 500,000 Central Albertans as the only referral centre in our zone.”
Officials with the organization also pointed to a document (the 2016 Multi-Year Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission) they say is at the crux of the matter and shows how Central Alberta is being overlooked in terms of health care infrastructure development.
The audience was told the situation in Red Deer also leads to longer wait times and travel to Edmonton and Calgary to receive care.
Central Alberta and the Red Deer hospital also lack the programs to deal with an array of medical illnesses that could be dealt with locally if proper funding were allocated to Central Alberta.
Also, over the years, there have been a number of reports that have shown that expansion plans have been needed – back to 2007 for example in a document called the Red Deer Regional Hospital Master Plan.
The plan was shelved with the amalgamation of the health regions in 2008, he said.
Then, in 2014, the Red Deer Regional Master Plan was created. Once again, this was after extensive consultation.
At that time, the hospital was third on the list for sites needing major infrastructure improvement in Alberta.
In 2015, there was the ‘Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre Service & Program Expansion Needs Assessment’.
Last year, the 2016 Multi-Year Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission was released and Red Deer Regional Hospital was no longer on the list, said Jim, adding that several projects were set in Calgary and Edmonton and other places.
In related news, last week Wildrose MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr called on the NDP government to make Central Alberta hospitals a priority.
“It appears Alberta Health Services would rather provide plans over action. We are beyond planning,” Orr said. “I suggest the minister move beyond another decade of planning and on to new hospital beds.
“The minister needs to provide a reason as to why Red Deer Regional Hospital was taken off the project priority list,” Orr said. “Central Albertans are counting on them to act.”
A request for feedback from the province was not returned by press time.
For more information, find them on facebook at ‘Diagnosis Critical – Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital’.