TREE-MENDOUS - From left

Festival of Trees totals higher than expected

Officials with the annual Red Deer event are thankful for community support

  • Dec. 13, 2016 9:10 p.m.

The Festival of Trees raised $950,000 for the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre this year, funds that will go toward Phase 2 of the Medical Specialty Clinic project.

That number is down from last year’s $1.06 million but Iaian Park, executive director of the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, said it still exceeded expectations considering the current recession.

He added it spoke to the generosity of Central Albertans that they still found room in their budgets to give in these hard times.

“Five dollars makes as much difference added up over time so I appreciate everything Central Alberta does,” Park said.

The Medical Specialty Clinic provides patients living with acute and chronic conditions to see a healthcare team without being hospitalized or sent to the emergency room, freeing up beds. Phase 2 will include a Parkinson’s clinic, enhancements to the inflammatory bowel clinic and other upgrades.

“It actually saves the government a lot of money, keeping people in their homes as opposed to having them in the hospital, in a bed. It’s really a cost saving rather than a cost to the hospital system so it’s unfortunate we don’t get more support from AHS,” said Bob Bilton, Foundation chair.

The Festival of Trees has now raised close to $14 million for the hospital since 1994.

Some of the projects made possible through the annual fundraiser include labs in the basement, two operating theatres as well as equipment.

“These things wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Central Albertans and committing funds to that,” Park said. “At the end of the day, there’s a certain budget that goes around the province and citizens of Central Alberta have stepped up and decided they wanted to contribute and enhance healthcare in their area.”

Amidst the celebratory breakfast held at the Holiday Inn and Suites yesterday morning, Bilton seemed frustrated with Alberta Health, suggesting that funding allocation for health care has been politicized.

“Edmonton and Calgary, because perhaps the number of MLAs that they have in those areas, get more support in their medical system than we do in Red Deer. As a matter of fact, we’ve seen Red Deer drop off the list on a number of projects that had been planned,” he said, adding that the Red Deer Hospital is a high-acuity hospital.

“We’re talking to the minister to say what’s going on, this is unfair, Red Deer’s not being serviced to the standard the rest of the province is.”

Kathy Saunders was the outgoing co-chair this year with Terri Williams to step into her role alongside Krista Spelt next year.

Park praised Saunders and Spelt for their volunteer work.

“They did a great job. This was a tough year. The economy did catch up to us. Last year we were over $1 million and this year we knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “These people show up, they’re not paid, they’re contributing time.”

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