Red Deer Regional Hospital again not on the ‘urgent priority list’

Facility is in need of massive expansion of services to meet increasing populations, officials say. More to come.

Alberta Health Services has excluded Red Deer Regional Hospital from their newly-released list of upcoming capital projects.

“Yesterday, Alberta Health Services released their 2017 Urgent Priority List,” said Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, a City physician who is part of the group Diagnosis Critical – Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital which has been working to raise awareness about the severe service shortages at the hospital.

“That was to include capital projects that they have made a priority, and essentially they give that document to government. The government picks from that document what projects they are going to fund.”

Last February, a rally was held in response to the 2016 document which had dropped Red Deer off the list.

“In 2014, we were third on that list, in 2015 we were still on the list. Then we were dropped in 2016 and very disappointedly, we are once again not on the list in 2017,” he said.

“Despite all of the hard work we have done trying to put awareness on this issue, and all of the people who showed up at the two rallies and who have written letters and sent emails – unfortunately we are not on the list.”

As mentioned, the first meeting held last March where audiences heard that the Red Deer Regional Hospital had 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.

Organizers 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 then patients in Calgary or Edmonton.

This kind of limited care in cardiac services is just one way the Red Deer Hospital has fallen so far behind over the years, physicians have noted.

The hospital is badly in need of an increase in capacity overall. The group has shown that 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 the zone.

This is a breaking story with more to come.

“It’s extremely disappointing. As a taxpayer myself and as someone who looks after the health of Central Albertans, it’s very disheartening. It’s frustrating and demoralizing to be honest.

“Right now, we are in flu season. We are overwhelmed. There are screen shots people have taken of our 12 hour wait times.

“We feel as frontline health care workers and care providers, that there is no other choice but for expansion. But we are forced to provide more planning documents in the hopes that eventually someone will recognize our need, and turn us into a funded, prioritized project.”

Central Zone Chief Zone Officer Kerry Bales said that, “This year, government was pretty specific as to what they wanted us to focus on as far as items that we would identify (for the list).”

“That is not a change for Red Deer from last year. Given that, it’s not to say that’s a reflection upon the needs or the concerns that are coming out of the community.

“It’s just that there were some very specific things that were going to be focused on, and Red Deer wasn’t going to be (in) that for this year,” he said. “The thing that I would say is that these capital processes are ongoing. There is always work that we are doing to go into developing our capital planning submissions from a Central Zone perspective.

“One of the things we will be doing, is that we are just coming to the completion of what we are calling our Zone Health Care Planning Process. We’ve been working with a variety of stakeholders including staff and physicians to lay our what our vision would be for the next 15 years.

“So we are going to take the work that we have done, we’re going to update the Capital Needs Assessment that was done for the Red Deer Regional Hospital in 2015.

“We are going to update that to make sure that all the information is as current as we can have it, and that the concepts that have been looked at within the Zone Healthcare Plan – we will be incorporating that into our submission for Red Deer and the Zone for 2018.

“For us, it’s an ongoing process that we continue to build upon.”

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