Groups to form coalition to fight health reforms

The Peace Country may soon have a regional health coalition that will find ways to fight back against Alberta Health Services reforms.

GRANDE PRAIRIE — The Peace Country may soon have a regional health coalition that will find ways to fight back against Alberta Health Services reforms.

In a meeting held on the weekend, groups from around the area unanimously agreed to come together and form a regional decision- making body.

“We had very common themes,” said Andony Melathopoulos, one of the organizers of the meeting and member of Friends of Beaverlodge Hospital.

“We’d be much more effective if we came together, shared resources and information and thought about doing some action as a group.”

The goal of the meeting was to protect the current level of health-care service in northern Alberta and ensure further expansion.

About 40 people attended the meeting, which included David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare, and Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason. Both spoke at the session.

“What I’m hearing over and over again here in the Peace Country, is the real strain in terms of capacity,” said Eggen.

“Say for example, the QEII hospital has outstripped its capacity to deal with the increase population here. There is a shortage of health care professionals, and this whole idea of cuts hanging over our heads.”

Mason said there is need for representation in the north, as he believes the provincial government “has forgotten about the whole Peace region.”

“I think it’s important to work together. Lots of people have been working on improving the health care situation in the Peace region,”said Mason. “What matters is good representation in this area — people who will get involved and speak out and let the government know that what is happening is not good enough.”

The meeting came in the wake of the promised new regional hospital for Grande Prairie being delayed by at least five years. There is also concern over emergency care beds being taken out of the Beaverlodge hospital, said Melathopoulos.

“People here don’t have the facilities and the resources that they need. Of course you are not entirely alone in that situation, but I do think there are particular needs being ignored,” said Mason.

Before becoming official, the regions health care groups at the session, such as Smoky River and District Health Task Force and Friends of Beaverlodge Hospital, will formalize their participation in the coalition with their respective groups.

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