Health care practitioners, government officials and supporters rallied Sunday afternoon to raise awareness regarding shortages at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
They want the government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services (AHS) to address these concerns.
“We are calling for a plan for the expansion of the Red Deer hospital and have it become a fully funded priority project,” said Dr. Paul Hardy from the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
The rally was organized by several physicians in Central Alberta, most of them, from the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre confirmed Hardy.
Although, Hardy does not believe the rally will solve all the health care concerns in Central Alberta, he’s hoping the government will receive the message.
“As long as there’s ongoing sustained public advocacy, the government and AHS will hear what we have been saying quietly, too quietly, for many years,” Hardy said.
He said the rally was a follow-up after a public meeting in February to let Central Albertans know they are lacking in infrastructure investment and the hospital is in a dire need of an expansion.
The hospital is not only short on space but critical shortages include 96 beds, 18 emergency room treatment stretchers and three fully functioning operating rooms. These needs were recognized about three years ago but haven’t been addressed.
The physicians are asking for a cardiac catheterization laboratory at the local hospital. Dr. Muhammad Shafiq shared his story during a speech. He had a heart attack in Red Deer in May and he was transported to Edmonton via an ambulance. On the way there, he had another heart attack.
“I feel the second heart attack was preventable if we had the cardiac catheterization lab here,” said Shafiq.
Hardy is hoping the hospital needs will be looked at when the NDP government works on their 2018 budget.
Red Deer resident Rocky Potuer, 55, was one of the many local residents who attended the rally. He said he has scheduled a surgery on his elbow in Calgary on Tuesday. He had to seek options outside of Red Deer when he was told it would take nearly a year and half to get the surgery done locally.
“It took two months from the time, testing was done, till the surgery date in Calgary versus a year and a half in Red Deer,” he said.
That’s been the case for many patients who are seeking treatment at hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary.
Kim Schreiner, Red Deer-North MLA was at the rally to listen to her constituents and the needs of Central Albertans.
“It’s important to them and it’s important to me and I’m taking it forward to my government colleagues and I’m very much standing here with the people of Central Alberta,” said Schreiner.
In a news release AHS said the agency is listening to concerns in Central Alberta.
As per the release, work is now underway to assess the needs of small urban communities when it comes to interventional cardiac services. The approach will take into account local health trends, current demand, future needs and infrastructure requirements in various Alberta communities including Red Deer.
Donna Reid, a retired registered nurse who worked at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre for nearly 34 years said she has seen the needs at the hospital increase over the years but there has been no means to fill those demands. She explained the backlog at the facility makes it difficult to transport patients from one department to another which leads to increased wait-times.
“The services available to patients and the community have not kept up with the need,” said Reid.
Red Deer city council was at the rally along with candidates who are running for city council in the upcoming election in October.
“Even though projects like these are completely within the jurisdiction of the province, but if it’s a concern for our community, it becomes a concern for city council,” said Mayor Tara Veer.
Coun. Ken Johnston shared his story after his wife who died about three and a half months after a heart attack. He couldn’t confirm whether his wife would’ve survived if the local hospital had a cath lab.
“This is not just a Red Deer issue, it’s a Central Alberta issue and it’s time now to get this done,” he said.