Red Deer doctors form society to advocate for fair healthcare funding

Red Deer Regional Hospital serves 450,000 to 500,000 Central Albertans

In an effort to bolster awareness of the urgent need for expanded health care services locally, a group of Red Deer physicians have formed the Society for Fair and Transparent Health Funding to Central Alberta.

The Society was created after a major expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital was dropped from the provincial priority list in late 2016 with little explanation from either Alberta Health Services or the Province, according to a release.

“It was the 28th of February last year that we had our first public meeting, where we had two sittings – at that time we decided to create this non-profit Society,” said Dr. Paul Hardy, a general surgeon at the Red Deer Regional Hospital and Society founding member.

“The reason we formed it was also to make (this issue) sustainable. As physicians, we didn’t want to appear to be just disgruntled for a couple of months and have it fizzle out. We want this to be a long-term commitment.”

A meeting is set for March 6th at the Baymont Inn and Suites, starting at 7 p.m. Hardy noted that it’s open to the public, but it’s not meant to be a rally. “It’s for those who are interested in the Society and want to either be brought on to the board or just help out,” he said.

“We also want to make it into something that is not just representative of physicians but also community members – we want to broaden the representation,” he said, adding that the group could possibly be divided up into three departments.

First, a group focused on research – exploring provincial funding and investment in the Central Alberta region compared to other parts of the province.

“The other would be engagement of the public which could include more public rallies, social media – that type of thing. And finally, there would be political engagement – making sure government and AHS knows what we are thinking and what we are advocating for,” he said.

“(Better) healthcare close to home is so important, and we feel that is something that has been ignored,” he said.

Local physicians believe this non-profit Society is the first of its kind in Canada.

“Citizens should not have to travel for medical care when it can be safely and reasonably delivered close to home,” said Dr. Kym Jim, also one of the Society’s founders.

Jim added that due to a lack of health infrastructure investment in the region dating back many years, Red Deer is in dire need of capital spending to expand the Red Deer Regional Hospital in order to provide care to the over 400,000 people who live in Central Alberta.

“We don’t blame current government or Alberta Health Services leaders for our current predicament, but they do have the urgent obligation to fix it,” he said.

Hardy agreed, noting that major hospital development can take many years to come to fruition after any sort of planning is given the green light.

“The longer we wait, the longer it will take. It takes years probably from a decision until these facilities would be fully functioning, so I think they need to do something sooner than later.”

Other founding members of the Society include Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, Dr. Alan Poole and Dr. Cinzia Gaudelli.

Organizers with ‘Diagnosis Critical – Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital’ have pointed out repeatedly that 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.

Another issue is that the City’s hospital doesn’t have a cardiac catheter lab and other cardiac supports, meaning that Central Albertans were ultimately 60% more likely to die from heart attacks than patients in Calgary or Edmonton.

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