No need to panic over health rumours

It is important, as your MLAs, to clarify recent reports of rural hospital closures.

It is important, as your MLAs, to clarify recent reports of rural hospital closures.

It seems about every three to six months opposition members start a rumour that some rural hospitals are due to be closed. Our government has committed that in the event of any change in status of a rural health facility consultations with residents affected will take place first.

The most recent incident involves a working document prepared by a doctor in central Alberta for the former David Thompson Health Region.

Dr. Brian Inglis is quoted as saying “this was a working document only” and he is disappointed he was not contacted first, before it was released publicly.

Alberta Health and Wellness Minister Ron Liepert emphasizes that there are no plans in place to close any of the facilities around the province. He added that “we have committed that if there is a planned change in the status of a facility, there will be prior engagement with that community.”

As your MLAs, we commend the hard work of the doctors, nurses and support staff here in the former DTHR and stand behind our government’s goal to improve our health services.

When the budget was released in April, government was very clear about the status of current health capital projects and said that, as part of Vision 2020, services at all existing, approved and proposed hospitals are under review to ensure they reflect local community needs and to see what services could be better delivered in other community settings.

Government’s goal is to improve patient access to health services, not reduce it. We are building a health system that is more focused on meeting patient needs, and want facilities to be providing the appropriate services.

Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett has also publicly stated that he is committed to improving accessibility, quality and sustainability in the health system. Dr. Duckett is planning to tour rural hospitals and long term care facilities throughout the summer.

Premier Ed Stelmach, who recently met with the new CEO, stated “there may be changes in the delivery of services but Dr. Duckett was very confident we’d be able to maintain services in rural Alberta.”

We all recognize the challenges of delivering a high quality publicly funded health care system, but we should never lose sight of our goal of building the best health care system that will be there not only for us, but for our children and future generations.

To this end, we welcome your comments and ask for your patience.

Mary Anne Jablonski,

Red Deer North MLA

Cal Dallas,

Red Deer South MLA