Hundreds show support for Sylvan urgent care centre

Lobbying efforts for an urgent care centre here got a shot in the arm on Wednesday night when about 500 residents turned out to show their support.

SYLVAN LAKE — Lobbying efforts for an urgent care centre here got a shot in the arm on Wednesday night when about 500 residents turned out to show their support.

Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson made no effort to hide her delight at the turnout despite the weather.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart that you are all here. This is absolutely tremendous,” Samson said at the beginning of the meeting at the town’s community centre.

Part information session and part rally, the two-hour event gave those attending a brief history of the so-far-unsuccessful 20-year effort to get an urgent care centre and what residents can do to help make it happen.

Teresa Rilling, a Sylvan Lake resident and member of a committee formed to lobby for the medical facility, urged community members to make sure it became a local election issue during the next provincial vote expected sometime in the spring.

“You and I can make the biggest impact if we are clear on what’s important to us,” said Rilling, who called on those attending to lobby politicians and health care officials and keep the issue in front of their communities.

An urgent care centre would provide around-the-clock, non-life-threatening medical care.

The facility would offer after-hours laboratory and diagnostic imaging services and provide beds for patients requiring observation.

It would serve Sylvan Lake and surrounding communities, including the five summer villages around the lake and the towns of Bentley and Eckville.

Seven centres are already operating in Alberta, but none in Central Alberta.

Sylvan Lake’s Dr. Brad Bahler is among local physicians willing to staff an urgent care centre.

Local physicians have been able to provide around-the-clock care but that will become increasingly difficult as the community grows, he said.

In communities where urgent care centres have been established they have proven successful and are well used.

Being able to treat people in Sylvan Lake would also take pressure of the emergency department at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and provide another option for those unwilling or unable to make the drive to the city.

The audience heard that the 18-member committee pursuing a centre already has an agreement with Alberta Health Services to develop a business case.

A proposal is expected to be submitted by September so it can be included in the health department’s 2013-2014 operational plans for this area.

Sylvan Lake resident Leonor Hammer was among those to brave the cold to attend.

“I believe the community needs an urgent care centre,” said Hammer.

“I didn’t realize it was as long a battle as it was.”

The facility would reduce some of the stress load for local doctors, who serve an area of 17,000 people and a community that draws one million tourists annually.

“I can see where this would really help take a lot of the responsibility off of them,” said Hammer.

Norglenwold’s Julie Saby came because “it’s a good cause to support.

“It’s something that the town needs.

“I was a little overwhelmed that this many people showed up.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com