By the end of the year Albertans will have more say in health care with the creation of 12 regional health advisory councils to provide public input to Alberta Health Services.
The councils, made up of 10 to 15 members, will replace 59 community health councils that operated under the nine former health regions.
Sundre Mayor Roy Cummings said time will tell how the councils will impact health care decisions in Alberta.
“It’s a step forward and we’ll see how it works out,” Cummings said Tuesday.
Sundre is battling to keep its hospital heliport open after AHS shut it down along with seven other heliports on July 1, then re-opened them pending the completion of a review sometime in the fall.
A community petition to keep the Sundre heliport open has 712 signatures so far.
Another petition to keep the existing services at Sundre Hospital has 663 signatures.
Both petitions can be signed at the Sundre & District Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Centre at 604 Main Ave. East.
Cummings said Sundre, which will be included in the health advisory council in the Red Deer area, can’t just rely on a council to ensure its residents have health care services like a heliport.
“We’re not just going to sit by and wait to see what happens.”
And the town will keep its “ears and eyes wide open” for any other local changes proposed for health care, he said.
More information continues to come out regarding the heliport fiasco.
New on the AHS website, board chair Ken Hughes has apologized for “miscommunication” of information that led AHS management to close and reopen the heliports.
AHS previously said the flip-flop was based on information from Transport Canada, but Transport Canada denies it had anything to do with it.
“Given the conflicting information we have received, a comprehensive internal review of the matter has been initiated and will be concluded when Dr. Stephen Duckett returns next week,” Hughes said. Duckett is on holidays.
“Going forward, we will work closely with all the communities involved as we develop a provincial transportation plan. The plan will include guidelines for the appropriate movement of patients across Alberta and will review each heliport on a case-by-case basis.”
Lynn Redford, vice-president of community engagement with AHS, said the heliport issue is an example of what people could bring to the attention of their local health advisory council.
“We have experts making those decisions and health care administrators but we need that layer of the public giving us feedback so that we know we are meeting their needs,” said Redford.
“We want them to tell us what they’re hearing in the community perhaps about challenges in services, and positive parts of services as well.”
Those interested in joining the councils must make their intentions known to Alberta Health Services by Aug. 14. People must be at least 18, live in the geographic area of their respective council, and have an interest in a broad range of health matters.
Members will be appointed by the AHS board by the end of October.
“They’re a great idea and I hope this addresses the need of the general public to provide input into the health system,” said AHS board member Gord Bontje of Red Deer.