Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan pledges to speak up for city needs

He’s learning more about hospital shortfalls, hospice expansion

New Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan said he’s seen the evidence, talked to supporters — and will be endorsing the Red Deer hospital expansion.

Stephan has already met with the group of doctors and community advocates who have been pushing for more beds, operating rooms and a cardiac catheterization lab at the hospital. He feels they have made a “principled” case.

Since a number of studies have shown over the years the local hospital is overburdened and underservices the regional population, Stephan feels the expansion supporters “have done their homework and have the facts” to support their push for more “valuable, lifesaving” services at the hospital.

Stephan’s new United Conservative government has not yet officially committed to the project, only being elected on April 16.

But Stephan pledged to work closely with his “competent and caring” Red Deer-North MLA colleague, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, to lobby for the project and other city needs.

He believes central Alberta gained political pull when three area MLAs were appointed to the provincial cabinet — including new Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen (MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and new Recreation and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, MLA for Rocky Mountain House-Rimbey.

“I think it’s a great thing for Red Deer … we work together well and have a strong team.”

Stephan admitted his first couple of weeks in government have been a “sharp learning curve,” but he’s been impressed by the kind of work being done in the community.

One of Stephan’s first orders of business has been to familiarize himself with services, such as the Red Deer Hospice. He was invited to tour the facility Friday to find out more about the six-room expansion that’s been embarked upon.

Stephan revealed he gained some personal knowledge of the hospice when his uncle died there a few years ago and feels it fills an important need.

The $5.2-million hospice expansion would increase rooms to 16 from 10, and add two multi-purpose spaces and a family area.

Expansion campaign director Val Hilario said $2 million has so far been raised towards covering these costs.

She admitted corporate sponsorships have been harder to obtain in this tough economy, so she next plans to apply for a $125,000 provincial grant this spring.

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