Review of rural health delivery announced

OLDS — Efforts to solve the emergency care crisis in Consort helped spur Premier Jim Prentice to call for a comprehensive rural health care review on Tuesday.

OLDS — Efforts to solve the emergency care crisis in Consort helped spur Premier Jim Prentice to call for a comprehensive rural health care review on Tuesday.

Prentice announced a panel led by MLA Richard Starke will review the delivery of health care in under-serviced rural and remote areas. The panel’s first recommendations are to be on the desk of Health Minister Stephen Mandel in 90 days.

“The timeline clearly is short. We recognize that. That’s intentional. We need to see practical and tangible solutions that can be implemented without delay,” Prentice said.

He made the announcement at a press conference at Olds Hospital and Care Centre on Tuesday morning along side Mandel.

Prentice said many rural communities face daunting health care challenges, including recruiting and retaining health professionals and staff; caring for patients, having to travel long distances, and the need to co-ordinate services with neighbouring communities. In 2011, Consort Community Health Centre lost its five acute care beds due to a lack of doctors. Since then, the community found the doctors needed but negotiations are still underway with Alberta Health Services to reinstate the beds.

Prentice said the commitment of the people of Consort to find solutions was really a catalyst for the review.

“I want to stress this is not about closing rural hospitals,” the premier said.

Panel member Bonnie Sansregret, who chairs the Consort and District Medical Centre Society, called the review an exciting opportunity.

“Sometimes we have patients who have to travel an hour, an hour and half, and it’s a worry when you have a child who has a fever, you have a husband or grandfather that’s having a heart attack or a stroke. Those golden hours are very crucial,” Sansregret said.

She was undeterred by the 90-day deadline, despite a three-year wait for Consort to get its acute care beds reopened.

“It’s a new day isn’t it. New premier. New health minister,” Sansregret said.

Recommendations for rural communities with a population of 1,250 or less, like Consort, will be submitted in 90 days. The next phase of the review will look at populations between 1,250 and 2,500, followed by the final stage for populations over 2,500.

Prentice said Sansregret will bring community perspective to the table. The panel has three members in addition to its chair.

Other members are past Alberta Medical Association president and rural physician Dr. Allan Garbutt, and president of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta Dr. Shannon Spenceley.

The panel will not hold public hearings but more members can be added to the panel.

The review will be carried out in consultation with Health Advisory Councils and other stakeholders and health care experts to ensure local input.

The review is to focus on:

l Timely access to appropriate health care.

l Evaluation of specialist services in rural areas.

l Optimizing the use of existing rural health facilities, ensuring patient safety and quality services.

l Ensuring communities are engaged in health service planning and policy development.

l Recruitment and retention of health personnel in rural areas, consistent with appropriate levels of care.

l The link between rural economic development and the provision of health services within communities.

“It’s a very, very short time frame to fix a very, very big problem,” said Bruce Rowe, Wildrose MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

Kerry Towles, Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, said Albertans need action, not another review.

“If (Prentice) actually listened to the frontline workers, and if he was out all summer listening to concerns — we don’t need a review. It’s pretty clear what Alberta needs. It’s more rural physicians, more primary care investment and more resources going to our frontline services and our communities,” Towles said.

She said Wildrose has been after the Progressive Conservative government for a long time to give Consort back its acute care beds and reviews into rural health care have already been done.

In 2010, Alberta Health Services developed the Community and Rural Health Planning Framework, which was updated again in October 2012. A Rural Physician Action Plan already exists funded under the Department of Health.

Wildrose says Albertans don’t need another government study to sit on a shelf.

“We’re not the kind of people that accumulate studies on shelves,” Prentice said.

“I just think it’s a waste of time, of people’s time, to develop studies and throw on the shelf. We will take steps to get things done,” Mandel said.

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read