David Marsden: Hospital unfairness makes me ill

The provincial government clearly isn’t without money. If it was, it wouldn’t have been able to announce $137 million for improvements to a Calgary hospital, which it did with great fanfare Wednesday.

“For years, Calgarians have been calling for the Peter Lougheed Centre to be expanded, and our government is delivering,” said Premier Jason Kenney, who represents a Calgary riding.

“We are committed to making long-term capital investments in the facilities that Albertans need to stay healthy, strengthening public health care and improving access to the services that matter most.”

Added Health Minister Tyler Shandro, who also represents a Calgary riding: “This project will give families in and around Calgary better access to life-saving emergency and mental health services.”

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The financial commitment, to be made over the next three years, is tremendous news for Calgary, but it leaves Red Deer residents and other central Albertans seething with frustration or anger. Take your pick.

Why should the fate of Red Deer hospital’s long overdue expansion remain uncertain until next Thursday, when the United Conservative government will hand down its second budget?

Why should Calgarians be enthusiastically assured that their health is a priority, but those who live in Red Deer are left to wonder? Do we not all pay taxes to the same government?

It’s by no means certain there will be funding for Red Deer hospital in the budget, of course, or that if there is some money, it will be sufficient to improve conditions that have been called “a blight” by our civic leaders.

Politicians have snubbed the region for years, using our tax dollars to pay for other Albertans’ health care. Physicians have calculated that our region received $228 per person in health-care infrastructure from 2008 to 2018 — or 1,000 per cent less than every other part of the province.

Frankly, it wouldn’t be at all surprising for the government, which is controlled by people in Calgary and Edmonton, to once again overlook the pressing needs of central Alberta.

Even our own MLAs have been missing in action when it comes to calling for hospital improvements. Why aren’t they on the front page of the Advocate demanding essential infrastructure?

Our current batch of provincial representatives have too quickly abandoned the interest of local voters for a comfy life in Edmonton.

Mayor Tara Veer puts Red Deer hospital’s deficiencies on the list of the city’s top three needs — along with a 24/7 homeless shelter and more Crown prosecutors to speed up court cases.

Yes, these are all requirements, but none of the others trump quality health care. If you require cardiac treatment, and it isn’t available in the city, your chances of dying rise exponentially.

It’s estimated that Red Deer-area residents are 50 to 60 per cent more likely to die of heart disease than Albertans in Calgary or Edmonton, because the local hospital continues to lack a cardiac catheterization lab.

Good health makes everything else possible, whether it’s finding a place to call home or seeking justice in front of a judge.

Central Albertans will continue to look for fairness when it comes to the equitable provision of health-care facilities. To date, and today, the scales of so-called justice are decidedly weighted in the direction of Calgary and Edmonton, however.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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