One of doctors calling for expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre agreed with Premier Rachel Notley that the lack of health care infrastructure started before the NDP government was elected.
But Dr. Kym Jim said the problem created years ago is being perpetuated by the current government’s funding priorities.
He said Red Deer’s hospital — the largest outside Edmonton and Calgary — has not seen a single bed increase in 15 years. “We have overwhelming data that demonstrates that Central Alberta is being under served. There has been no data that has come forth that has contradicted the data that we put forth as far as the funding inequities in the province,” said Jim on Friday when the hospital was at 111 per cent occupancy.
“There’s a huge dollar inequity that exists in infrastructure spending and behind that there’s a huge program delivery issue. Because of this patients from Central Alberta have to travel.”
On Thursday while in Red Deer for the official announcement to build the Red Deer Justice Centre, Notley also said her government was working with Alberta Health Services to look at the health care priorities in the region.
Red Deer hospital was identified as an urgent infrastructure priority in 2014 but has since then has dropped off the list. AHS says another study is required.
Jim said doctors are committed to working with AHS to meet the infrastructure and program needs of Central Albertans, and doctors are involved in numerous committees and processes to improve and enhance services and efficiencies.
But the undeniable fact is that Central Alberta has not gotten its fair share of health care infrastructure dollars as its population has grown, he said.
“What needs to be delivered in Red Deer is cardiac catheterization, expansion of surgical services and expansion of programs that support more complex patients. What sense does it make to expand services in Edmonton and Calgary when those services could be delivered closer home.”
Delivering services closer to home where warranted and reasonable is an AHS priority, he said.
The group of local doctors have not requested a meeting with the premier, but have been meeting with local MLAs, Jim said.
“We’re willing to work through the process. But at some point in time someone is going to have to answer to the issue as to why the funding inequity issues exist.”
A meeting in February organized by doctors attracted about 400 people. A rally is planned for the spring.
While in Red Deer on Thursday, Notley toured Red Deer Airport where a new runway extension opened three months ago with $6 million in provincial funding over three years. That money was announced in 2015. The City of Red Deer and Red Deer County also helped fund the project.
“It’s definitely going to help us grow the business as well as be a key economic driver for both the city and the county,” said airport CEO Graham Ingham.