People packed into two public meetings in Red Deer in February to hear concerned doctors discuss the urgent need to expand Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Doctors still pushing for hospital expansion

Meet doctors at Red Deer Public Market

Local physicians lobbying for expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre will have a booth at Red Deer’s Public Market on Saturday.

The same doctors drew a few hundred people to a public meetings in February to discuss their concerns about the urgent need to increase beds and services.

Surgeon Dr. Paul Hardy said doctors have since been meeting with Alberta Health Services, but it’s important to keep Central Albertans in the loop in order for change to happen.

“I think the current government is listening but we need that listening to translate into action,” Hardy said.

“The minister of health did meet with us. That was one of our goals from the February meeting. I think she understands what we’re talking about. But understanding is just the first step. There’s a lot of detail that perhaps we need to keep in the public eye and keep her and keep AHS informed about.”

Consistently one of the five busiest hospitals in Alberta, Red Deer hospital is short 96 beds, three operating rooms, and 18 emergency room treatment stretchers according to an Alberta Health Services needs assessment.

A cardiac catheterization laboratory is among the services needed. Last October doctors reported that without local access to treat blocked arteries, and the long transfer times for treatment elsewhere, it means Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.

“For Red Deer hospital to get an expansion is probably going to be years but if we don’t start now, in 10 years we’ll be even worse off. People are going to be getting more and more of their heath care from Edmonton or Calgary if the direction doesn’t change now,” Hardy said.

Red Deer has the longest wait lists for surgery despite some Central Albertans sidestepping Red Deer and heading straight to Edmonton or Calgary instead, he said.

He said part of Alberta’s long-term health care planning is to make more care available in the community to free up hospital beds and that is a good idea.

“We’re concerned that the push to move things to the community could miss the fact that we’ve missed a lot of development of the hospital over the last 10, 15 years. You can’t just move it into the community.”

Hardy said in the fall doctors want to see Red Deer’s expansion project back on the province’s urgent health care priority project list.

“Getting back on the list would be a minimum expectation. If we weren’t back on the list that would be very troubling. It would mean that they haven’t heard our message or the intentions aren’t what we hope they are.”

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