(Contributed photo).

A health care rally is planned for Red Deer next month

Doctors want government to address local hospital bed shortage

Local doctors intend to send another strong message about Red Deer hospital’s critical shortages at public rally next month.

They will remind the provincial government that the hospital bed and operating room crunch — first identified in 2014 report by Alberta Health Services — has not been addressed, despite being considered high priority three years ago.

“We have the longest waits (for health care procedures) in the province,” said Dr. Paul Hardy.

The rally is being held on Sunday, Sept. 10, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in the Memorial Centre parking lot, with speeches at 4 p.m.

While Red Deer hospital is one of the five busiest in Alberta, it continues to be short 96 beds, three operating rooms, and 18 emergency room treatment stretchers. Without an expansion, the need for operating rooms, beds and emergency treatment space will grow, local physicians have warned.

A cardiac catheterization laboratory is among the services doctors have called for since a previous rally last fall. In October, it was reported that Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton because of long transfer times to get treated elsewhere.

Since no new acute care beds have opened locally in 20 years, Red Deer hospital is always running at capacity, said Hardy. Many residents are tired of long waits and are going to larger centres for medical procedures that should be available their own region — at less expense and inconvenience to patients.

Although the local hospital’s shortages were well publicized, the New Democrat government did not give the facility any capital funding in 2017. Hardy hopes this is redressed in the 2018 budget.

Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller stated in a letter to the Advocate that she’s doing her upmost to work with the Alberta health minister and move Red Deer hospital’s needs to the top of the priority list. Voting in a United Conservative government will only ensure the expansion is “dead in the water,” since the party’s platform is deficit reduction and no new spending, Miller added.

The United Conservative Party’s health critic Tany Yao called her comments “fear-mongering.” Yao said reprioritizing spending could help the problem. Instead of giving Edmonton and Calgary hospitals more money to deal with Red Deer patients, allocate these funds to Red Deer hospital, he said. “This shouldn‘t be a partisan issue. Any government should be recognizing these issues, and it’s been some years now…”

Hardy would welcome any political party that addresses Central Alberta’s health care needs.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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