The prognosis appears to be good for a lobbying effort for fair health-care funding led by Red Deer doctors.
About 60 people packed a local hotel meeting room for the inaugural meeting of the Society for Fair and Transparent Health Funding to Central Alberta. The meeting was called to drum up support for the cause and recruit volunteers for the society’s board.
Some prominent people have already joined, including businesswoman and philanthropist Joan Donald and Red Deer city Coun. Ken Johnston.
“We very much need a ground game and we very much need volunteers,” said Dr. Paul Wolstenholme, one of the society’s five founding doctors.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Wolstenholme highighted the health funding disparities in the province. Central Zone has received about $56 million, compared with more than $3 billion for Calgary and close to $2 billion for Edmonton. Even North Zone, centred on Grande Prairie, has received more than $1 billion.
On a per capita basis, Central Zone gets one-tenth the funding per person compared with Edmonton and one-20th in Calgary, he said.
“This is something you can actually be outraged about. This is not a fair investment.”
Grant Howell, said it’s time that Central Alberta got into the decision-makers’ faces.
“Edmonton and Calgary had multiple hospitals by the time they were 300,000 people.”
Dr. Malcolm Campbell said the catchment area for patients greatly expanded when Central Zone was created, but additional funding did not follow.
Patients from as far as Tofield and Wainright are referred to Red Deer, he said. There are only eight child psychiatry beds in Red Deer, nowhere near enough for the size of the region.
The implications of under-funding Red Deer’s hospital are felt in surrounding communities, he said.
“We really need to make sure it’s not just a Red Deer campaign,” he said.
Nurse Tara Deleeuw, who lives in the Bashaw area, said her daughter-in-law lost two babies before birth in 2013 and 2014.
Deleeuw said she investigated what happened and believes the outcome would have been different in Edmonton or Calgary.
“I have a lot of emotional investment in this,” she told the meeting.
“I know that Red Deer is being neglected and over-sighted,” she said, following the meeting.
Dr. Kym Jim, another of the society’s founders, said front-line health-care workers are not in a position because of their jobs to speak out. But they back what the society is trying to accomplish.
“Make no mistake, there’s tremendous support for this.”