Red Deer Regional Hospital was not considered a priority on Alberta Health Services’ 2017 Multi-Year Health Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission, which was released Tuesday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Red Deer councillors shocked hospital isn’t a priority

Coun. Michael Dawe said Red Deer Regional Hospital has become a “full-blown crisis”

Members of city council say they are shocked and disappointed Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre was left off Alberta Health Services’ infrastructure priority list once again.

Coun. Michael Dawe, who served as an elected Red Deer Regional Hospital Board trustee for 12 years, said the problems at the hospital are only growing.

“What has gone from a normal problem has become a true full-blown crisis,” said Dawe. “It’s going to take some time to resolve these issues, they won’t have it sorted out in a month, so the crisis is only going to deepen.”

AHS released its 2017 Multi-Year Health Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission on Tuesday, listing nine priority projects across Alberta.

Dawe said he was shocked to hear the news because there was a push within the community to bring the issues to the forefront.

That push included a rally at the Memorial Centre, doctors speaking out and a number of information sessions.

“We’re running out of time to deal with it. What has to happen? Do we need to see a major tragedy or really bad outcomes in people’s health? Do we have to reach that? I hope not,” said Dawe.

Dawe said he hears comments about the hospital every day. It’s important people continue to talk about the hospital. Red Deer’s hospital is consistently one of the five busiest hospitals in Alberta.

“People have to speak up,” said Dawe. “Don’t assume somehow or another it will be done within the system. The system reacts to people speaking up.”

Coun. Ken Johnston said he felt devastated and let down the Red Deer hospital wasn’t on the AHS priority list.

“This issue is so fundamental to the quality of life for Central Albertans,” Johnston said. “This is an evidence-backed issue. This isn’t us clamouring for infrastructure or support programs from a nice-to-have basis, this is a need-to-have thing.”

Johnston, whose wife died three-and-a-half months after a major heart attack, said he knows first-hand how concerned residents are about the state of the hospital.

“We just can’t seem to get AHS to make this is a priority item. That’s what makes it so frustrating,” said Johnston.

People concerned about the hospital should reach out to their local MLA, Johnston added.

Mayor Tara Veer said it’s highly imperative people speak up before the provincial government goes through its budget process in March or April.

“The ministry and the government … takes recommendations from AHS, but they can certainly elevate the priority of a project if they choose to,” said Veer.

Council had submitted a formal request to AHS to re-prioritize the Red Deer hospital prior to the priority list’s release, Veer added.

MLA Red Deer-South Barb Miller was unavailable for comment Thursday, but she did take to social media to discuss the news.

“I am STILL pulling strings and on the phone talking to AHS about doing something about Red Deer Regional Hospital,” Miller said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Don’t stop contacting me, it keeps me going! Know that I am on your side and have been stressing to the Ministry and AHS how something needs to change fast.”

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