It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre started handing out petitions to enhance cardiac services.
They’ve distributed thousands of them asking residents to support a cardiac catheterization lab.
Now, at least one Red Deer resident is furthering the cause.
Edward Thomas Skoreyko, who goes by Tom, was in the local hospital recently visiting a relative with a heart problem.
There, Dr. Gustavo Nogareda handed him the petition to sign and send off to various Alberta Health Services department heads, as well as Premier Rachel Notley and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.
Skoreyko signed the petition himself and sent them off to various municipalities in AHS’s central zone.
“I just feel like helping,” he said recently. “Because you know governments don’t move easy.”
The goal is to swamp the government with the letters, Skoreyko said.
The longtime Red Deer resident has taken it upon himself to distribute the petitions in the community.
Those looking to sign the petition can call Skoreyko at 403-343-2387.
“You can’t move a five-ton rock by yourself, you will need help and so do our medical professionals – they need our help,” Skoreyko states in a letter that has the petition attached.
The petitions are addressed to people with decision-making power.
“Please send copies that I have attached. Send and send and send until we have our zone covered,” the 83-year-old writes.
Nogareda, a specialist in cardiology and head of cardiology at the hospital, calls the Red Deer resident a “champion.”
“He is helping his community in a way that he may not fully understand,” he said.
“Because we’re dealing with the leading cause of death in the developed world and individuals in central Alberta are not receiving standard care with the leading cause of death,” the doctor said.
In 2016, local doctors reported that not being able to treat blocked arteries locally, and the long transfer times for the treatment elsewhere, mean central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.
After start-up costs, it would not cost any more to treat patients in Red Deer than it does in Calgary and Edmonton, and it would save on transportation costs, health-care professionals argue.
Although the doctor doesn’t know how many petitions have been handed out, at least 2,377 people have supported the cause online at centralabcathlab.ca as of Tuesday afternoon. The open letter listed on the website goes to the legislative assembly.
“We hand them out to people who come to us saying ‘we want to help,’” Nogareda said, adding that the petitions get passed out at the hospital to patients and their families who access the services there.
Since the doctors started the petition, Nogareda said the requests have gone from being ignored to having a face-to-face meeting with Hoffman.
The petitions have also involved and educated the community on the importance of a cath lab and the lives it will save at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Two reports released by AHS around October support enhancing cardiac services in Red Deer, including cardiac catheterization.
But the reports did not say when services would be enhanced.
“I think it’s very slow,” the specialist said about the reports and bureaucracy, referring to the lives that are at stake.
“Lots of people getting together in a room get paid to generate a report that doesn’t change anything, so we keep wasting resources that do not impact the people,” he said.
Ted Braun, vice president and medical director for Central and Southern Alberta said AHS is aware a cath lab would help Red Deerians.
“We also know that establishing such a service is a complex process that requires a number of foundational elements to be in place before interventional cardiac programs can be created in centres outside Calgary and Edmonton,” said Braun.
Referring to the findings of the two reports, Braun said Red Deer and Lethbridge are able to begin considering what health services, programs and infrastructure would be necessary for specialized cardiac programs.
People can also find the petition online or can stop at Healthy Heart Institute on 50th Avenue in Red Deer.