It was seven years in the making, but Sylvan Lake’s Advanced Ambulatory Health Service is already proving its value.
The doctor who worked the first ambulatory care shift on Monday saw 22 patients — and that number has risen throughout the week, said Susan Samson, chair of the Sylvan Lake Urgent Care Committee, who attended a community celebration for the facility on Thursday afternoon.
She predicted patient numbers would continue to increase — particularly as beach season opens and out-of-town visitors begin flocking to town. Sylvan Lake gets more than 800,000 visitors each summer
“We started on this journey in 2011 and what we were looking for was medical treatment for non-life-threatening injuries that was available to the public seven days a week,” Samson added at the celebration at the NexSource Centre.
“We knew this was a piece that was missing in this area.”
Seeing the community health centre that treats walk-in patients finally open this week “is very exciting, but more rewarding,” she added. “Sometimes we thought we’d hit a dead end, and to be here to celebrate today with our partners and community members is nothing short of a small miracle.”
Plenty of credit was given to Samson and her 16 committee members by Sylvan Lake’s Mayor Sean McIntyre.
The provincial NDP government and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman also received praise for listening to the community and working extensively — and collaboratively — with the local Urgent Care Committee and Alberta Health Services to come up with a solution.
Although Hoffman could not make the celebration, associate health minister Brandy Payne brought her greetings and commended the community for making a strong case for a health service that she said hadn’t made any traction under the previous Tory government.
The Alberta New Democrats spent $2.3 million for a centre that will treat patients for any urgent condition that doesn’t require a trip to the emergency room, such as small fractures, burns or cuts that need sutures. It will not treat patients transported by ambulance — they will continue to be sent to Red Deer hospital.
Having local ambulatory care is “awesome,” said Joy Law, who lives in Sylvan from May to September with her husband John. The Calgary couple say they have occasionally had to make trips to Red Deer hospital for minor treatments, but now won’t have to leave Sylvan Lake.
Dr. Ted Braun, vice-president and medical director for the Central and Southern Alberta for Alberta Health Services, said one of the many benefits is it will relieve pressure on Red Deer hospital’s emergency room.