Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said that Red Deer is a priority to her government and that hospital expansions should have been made over a decade ago.
The Province has put away $1 million in its budget for the next two years for Red Deer-related planning and is currently conducting a needs assessment as well as updating its provincial Cardiac Care Plan.
Hoffman said it is important to the Government of Alberta to have the right information.
“It is important that we don’t waste any time on this,” she said. “That is why we put the planning money into the budget for the next steps moving forward. It will likely lead to the business-case scenario which is the next step and the physicians have been very supportive of that.”
These comments came while the minister was in Red Deer meeting with patients at Points West Living, a seniors housing complex in north Red Deer. The patients were individuals who have used the Community Paramedics Program, which has helped over 200 people since coming to Red Deer in February.
One of those patient is 82-year-old Allan Shurmer who has been visited by Community Paramedics twice. Both times, Shurmer was able to avoid a six to eight hour hospital wait time and was treated in under 90 minutes.
“They were brought in here and they did wonders,” he said. “If I would have had to go to the ER, I would have been there for five, six, seven or eight hours. I have used it twice and it has been perfect.”
Red Deer Community Paramedic Rob Miller said the service helps patients with non-acute issues including minor infections, UTIs and lung infections.
“We can catch those early,” Miller said. “We have the option to talk to the doctor and we can get to that stuff real early so they don’t spend a bunch of time in the hospital.
“I did 17 years in EMS and this is totally different than what I did before. We can spend some time, figure out what is going wrong and deal with it on the spot instead of spending six to eight hours in the hospital.”
He added they are able to call EMS to come pick up the patient if the issue does require emergency care.
“Everyone I have heard from is ecstatic because going to the hospital nowadays is hours. It takes a long time. For them to be treated in their own home is a great value to them,” Miller said.
Hoffman said the program is one she hopes will grow to other communities because it frees up space in hospital emergency rooms.
“The Community Paramedic Program has been in play in Edmonton for three years and in 2016 we saw over 5,000 visits at homes,” she said. “Those are patients who would have been taken by ambulance with at least two crew members on.
“It is easier on the patient if they can stay at home to have those early assessments. The paramedics can connect with a physician and has the ability to treat the patient.”
Red Deer – North MLA Kim Schreiner added, “This is something that has been working really well in Edmonton and Calgary. It is something that our constituents in Red Deer have been asking for and I’m really glad we have added it.”
Hoffman said the Community Paramedic Program is part of their government’s commitment to providing quality healthcare to Albertans.
“Everyday we get called on by our opponents to bring in deep cuts that would certainly impact front lines and infrastructure. No one wants to have debt on the books, but we also can’t afford people getting sub-quality care,” she said.