For the second time in about six months, hundreds of Central Albertans rallied with local doctors calling for the urgent expansion of services and beds at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Surgeon Dr. Paul Hardy said Sunday’s outdoor rally at the Memorial Centre attracted an estimated 600 people throughout the afternoon. The doctors’ first public meeting in February drew about 400.
He said Sunday’s rally attracted people of all ages and shows government how important hospital expansion is to Central Albertans.
“The message is getting through. But getting the message through isn’t enough. We need some decisions and some action,” Hardy said Wednesday.
Doctors have been vocal about the lack of beds and hospital services since last fall. Among the needed services is a cardiac catheterization laboratory to treat blocked arteries. Without access to a local lab, and the long transfer times for the treatment elsewhere, doctors say Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.
“Based on our population we’ve demonstrated need and cost effectiveness for a cardiac cath lab. But the question is are we going to get it?”
Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health are creating their first ever provincial plan for interventional cardiac services for communities outside Calgary and Edmonton, such as Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie, and Fort McMurray.
Hardy said studying and planning has been going on for years.
Meanwhile, per capita health-care investment in Red Deer has seriously lagged behind Edmonton and Calgary, doctors say.
“There’s no room to grow, let alone look after what we have today, so if decisions aren’t made soon, it’s going to be an even worsening situation for us in Central Alberta.”
AHS data suggests on average patients at Red Deer’s hospital have the longest wait for surgery in the province, he said.
“There are significant numbers of Central Albertans occupying hospital beds or having surgery in Edmonton or Calgary who could be looked after in Red Deer. If we didn’t have the ability to access Edmonton or Calgary, you can imagine what our wait lists would be like.”
Doctors encourage the public to continue to write letters to their MLAs, the premier, health minister and AHS.
Hardy said doctors will host another public forum by next spring at the latest.
“But you may hear from us many times before then.”