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Yuletide festival raises cash for care centre

Sylvan Lake’s first Yuletide Festival will definitely become an annual event, say organizers.

Despite the frightful weather outside on Friday and Saturday, sponsors, donors and participants found plenty of ways to keep warm inside, raising just over $10,000 toward the urgent care centre they are pressuring Alberta Health Services to build.

The needs for an urgent care facility is critical in Sylvan Lake, where existing medical facilities are pushed to the limit to keep up with the needs of their patients, said Dr. Johannes Myburgh, a partner in one of the town’s two medical clinics.

Attending the celebrations on Saturday, Myburgh said the doctors and staff at his clinic commonly start at 8:30 in the morning and work through until 6 p.m., with additional hours on Saturday.

It is not unusual for someone calling in with an emergency to be deferred to the walk-in clinics in Red Deer because there is no way to slot them in, said Myburgh.

“If you look at how our system works, we try to accommodate as many patients as possible. We will see walk-in patients at our clinic, but you can only see so many,” he said.

Probably the biggest frustration for Sylvan Lake physicians is that there is no lab service after hours, so someone coming in with an emergency still needs to go to Red Deer for tests, where they may sit for hours awaiting results.

“I think the biggest problem still is after hours and weekends. You can’t do a lot if the lab is not available,” said Myburgh.

It is also difficult to look at Lacombe, which has a similar population and is a similar distance to Red Deer, but has its own hospital and emergency services, he said.

There were plans when there was still a regional health board for an urgent care facility to serve Sylvan Lake and the northern part of Red Deer. But those plans disappeared with the system was restructured, said Myburgh.

He said it doesn’t make sense to him for people to go all the way to Red Deer and then sit and wait when emergency services could be made available in Sylvan Lake.

Mayor Susan Samson said the push for urgent care is a regional initiative, including Eckville, Benalto and Bentley with a total draw of about 18,000 people.

Besides raising money to equip a new urgent care facility, the Sylvan Yuletide Festival helped keep the issue in front of the people who have the ability to move the process along, said Samson.

“We’re in a holding pattern. We’re always waiting for something to happen. Now, we’re waiting for Alberta Health Services to look at the overall provincial plan for what services they’re going to deliver in 2013.

“We’ve been identified as a need in that plan. Whether any dollars will be allocated to us, we’re not sure,” she said.

Graham Parsons, chair of the Yuletide Festival committee, said he was “tinkled pink” with the results from the inaugural event and that plans are now falling into place for the 2013 festival, to be held on Nov. 29 and 30.

Committee members learned a few lessons this year that will be implemented for 2013, said Parsons.



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