A victory six years in the making, Sylvan Lake’s medical care will expand, but a local physician and MLA say this is just the beginning for the Central Alberta community.
Monday afternoon, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced improved health-care services in Sylvan Lake and a multi-million dollar renovation to the existing health centre.
“Even though the price of oil is down, we know the needs of the community and surrounding area have only gone up,” said Hoffman.
With a price tag of $2 million, the Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre will expand to include a laboratory and diagnostic imaging services, including X-ray, will be added. This facility will operate seven days a week, 16 hours per day.
“It’s such a great announcement and something we’ve worked hard for over the last six years,” said Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre, who said support came from communities surrounding Sylvan Lake including Eckville, Norglenwald, Bentley and Red Deer County.
“It’s a marked improvement from the services we have now. Not only do we have access to 16 hours a day, but we have access to lab and diagnostic imaging services — X-ray. These are services our local doctors really need to serve our population well.”
The renovations are scheduled to start this spring and the improved facilities should be operational by 2018.
Samson shared in the excitement of the day, a culmination of six years of work.
“It’s affordable, we didn’t ask for a new building we asked to use something that exists,” said Samson, adding it was the best use of the available funds.
The committee, which started six years ago, has fundraised more than $197,000 over six years for the cause of improving local medical care. These funds have been held in trust and will be turned over to Alberta Health Services for the purchase of equipment for the new facility.
For the committee the announcement has been six years in the making, but for local physicians it is a change they have wanted for decades.
“This has been an issue before I started practicing in Sylvan Lake and we’re a lot closer to a solution than we have ever been,” said local physician Dr. Brad Bahler. “This is the first step of a broader solution. By far the biggest gap in our area is a lack of after-hours service.”
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre, said the announcement was a long time coming and the cries of the community had long been ignored.
“This really isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. 16 hours isn’t 24 hours, it’s ambulatory care not full care,” said Don MacIntyre, noting as the community grows, so will its health care needs.
“We’re going to have to have this evolve over time and now we have a beachhead.”