A plan that will make urgent, after-hours health care a reality for Sylvan Lake and neighbouring communities will be in the hands of Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman by Sept. 30.
A joint task force made up of members from Sylvan Lake and area communities and Alberta Health Services will spend the next three months working on the plan.
“We’re going to look at all of the options. It may be a single location or it may be a network of services that work together to provide that same service in the community,” said Kerry Bales, chief zone officer for Alberta Health Services Central Zone, on Monday.
“What we’ve looked at is making sure there is access for non-emergent conditions that have the proper support, such as lab and diagnostics, after hours to provide for people’s needs.”
Sylvan Lake and area have pursued an urgent-care centre since 2011 and established an Urgent Care Committee to push for a facility that would run seven days a week, with access to a lab and X-ray.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre said the Urgent Care Committee, AHS and the Ministry of Health are now working in the same direction.
“The messaging we’re getting from the province now is we hear you loud and clear and we’re working on a solution and they’re committed to making it happen. That’s a very encouraging message to us,” McIntyre said.
“We’re really happy to move past determining the need and getting on to planning and implementing a solution,” said McIntyre who is a member of the task force.
The task force will be made up of staff and physicians from AHS and Wolf Creek Primary Care Network, members of the town’s Urgent Care Committee, and representatives of the Town of Sylvan Lake and surrounding communities.
Bales said the goal is to design the most effective service as cost-effectively as possible.
“We haven’t actually set any parameters around what the funding would look like.”
He said depending on what is recommended, the intention would be to have the new services in place before the end of the current fiscal year that ends March 31, 2017.
The Sylvan Lake area serves a population of more than 22,000 and includes Sylvan Lake, Eckville, Bentley, Benalto, Lacombe County, Red Deer County and summer villages Birchcliff, Half Moon Bay, Jarvis Bay, Norglenwold, and Sunbreaker Cove.
As many as 750,000 people also visit the area annually.
Doctors with the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network have provided after-hours care on an as-needed basis from their offices, but this practice has become unsustainable as the community has grown. Anyone needing urgent after-hours care has had to travel to nearby emergency departments if they were unable to be seen locally.