United Conservative Party MLAs slammed the NDP government for “snubbing” Central Alberta on health care on Thursday.
Four MLAs, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper and Battle River-Wainright MLA Wes Taylor climbed to the top of Rotary Park Hill overlooking Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Thursday morning to deliver their message.
They criticized the NDP for leaving Red Deer’s hospital off Alberta Health Services’ health-care infrastructure priority list, a move that dismayed Red Deer city council members and local health professionals.
“We’ve seen continued mismanagement and lack of action from the current government,” said Cooper.
“Since 1997, the Red Deer hospital has seen very little in the way of significant upgrades. but, at the same time, we’ve seen the referral region expand, we’ve seen a growing population, an aging population, and increases in technology that need to come to Central Alberta …” he said.
“We are all aware of the risk of having a heart attack in Central Alberta, and the need for additional cardiac supports here,” he said, adding improving health care in Central Alberta is a priority of his party.
Orr said not giving Central Albertans the same access to health care as other parts of the province amounts to a “social justice issue.
“People pay taxes here, they contribute their funds to health-care system, to the government, yet they feel like the money is being spent elsewhere,” he said.
The numbers back that up, he suggested. Per capita health-care spending in Central Alberta is lower than other parts of the province, especially in the urban areas.
“We hear from a lot of people (who say) ‘Why are we being treated like second-class citizens.’ ”
McIntyre said, “It’s a regional issue. It’s not just Red Deer’s hospital.”
There have been well-publicized calls, by area residents, health professionals and elected officials, to upgrade cardiac care at the hospital, but the government has not acted, he said.
When Edmonton or Calgary need something, they get it, he added. “Why do we have to beg and plead here in Central Alberta for things that we need for our very lives?
“It just doesn’t make any sense. People are very angry.”