While Health Minister Sarah Hoffman commended the public’s interest in advocating for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, she would not make any expansion promises.
On Tuesday, Central Albertans came out in full force to a public meeting led by concerned doctors who discussed the urgent need to increase beds and services at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
So many wanted to hear what doctors had to say that people spilled out into the hallway and lobby of Baymont Inn & Suites where the afternoon meeting was held. A repeat meeting followed. Counting both meetings about 400 attended overall.
With satellite viewing rooms set up, organizers say that as many as 800 people watched the meeting.
“I have no intention of making promises that I’m not going to keep. The promise I will make is that we’re going to keep working with the community and we’re going to work with the doctors and we want to make sure that Red Deer’s needs are made well aware,” said Hoffman on Wednesday from Edmonton.
“We’re working through a tough time in this province and doing it while protecting health care, preventing the lay off of nurses, and the reduction of services that are so important to the citizens of the province. It’s a bit of a tough line sometimes to walk, but I appreciate that the community, in particular the physicians there who have done this proactive work, want to make sure that we keep moving forward and investing in the third largest community in Alberta.”
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. Without expansion, the need for operating rooms, beds and emergency treatment space will quickly multiple.
A cardiac catheterization laboratory is among the services doctors say is desperately needed. In October they reported that without local access to treat blocked arteries, and the long transfer times for the treatment elsewhere, it means Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.
Hoffman said there are a number of moving parts when looking at cardiac cath lab allocation.
“I know that Alberta Health Services is looking at an Alberta plan as well as one specifically for the Central Zone and that work is underway right now.”
She was aware of generous donations available from the community to push the project forward.
Both Red Deer Regional Hospital Foundation and local philanthropists Joan and Jack Donald have offered $5 million each towards the lab.
“Obviously it’s great working with community when they are committed to helping you solve some of these struggles. But we do want to make sure that a cath lab is part of a vision of how it’s going to serve Albertans as well obviously Red Deer and Central Zone. AHS is doing that work right now,” Hoffman said.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre said he will study the upcoming provincial budget to see where unnecessary money is being spent.
“I want to see where the money is going. We’re talking about people’s lives here. This is not an option. The government must do something,” MacIntyre said who attended Tuesday’s packed public meeting that reminded him of protests against the NPD’s controversial farm safety legislation.
“I think the government had better do something right now and I think Alberta Health Services needs to do something about the systemic problems they’ve got internally that led to having 15 needs assessment done in the last 10 years and nothing done at all to address the needs that everyone in Alberta Health Services was very well informed about.”
The Wildrose MLA said government must bring solutions to the table immediately. The last thing he wants to hear is that yet another study is required.
“This government will respond to pressure and I am hoping everyone across Central Alberta will make their voices heard — that they will light this thing up. I believe if they do, this government will do the right thing,” MacIntyre said.
Red Deer-North MLA Kim Schreiner, who has met frequently with doctors in recent months, said she attended the meeting to hear what’s important to constituents in Red Deer and surrounding area.
“I’m here to listen and here to be able to take any of their concerns forward and hopefully we can get some resolution,” Schreiner said on Tuesday.