The Central Zone of Alberta Health Services is ignoring pleas for an urgent care centre in Sylvan Lake, says the town’s mayor.
Recently Sylvan Lake and Area Urgent Care Committee was advised its request didn’t make it into the AHS Central Alberta Zone Integration Plan for the next five years, or in the long-term.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson said AHS Central Zone has completely discounted the needs of the 18,000 people who live in Sylvan Lake, Bentley, Eckville, five summer villages, Red Deer and Lacombe counties, and the one million visitors to Sylvan Lake each year.
She said seven urgent care models operate in Alberta.
“They are a proven model that works, that are sustainable and financially responsible and yet Alberta Health Services Central Zone has just shut us out,” said Samson on Tuesday, who is also the urgent care committee chair.
Sylvan Lake and area has been fighting for a facility that’s open seven days a week with extended hours, laboratory and x-ray services, and non-life-threatening medical care.
In January, about 500 people rallied in support of the care centre. A letter campaign commenced and there have been several meetings with government and health services officials.
Samson said the project seemed achievable until this “11th hour oh by the way we’re not going to be doing anything for you.’”
The committee proposed low-cost solutions, including putting day beds in the current David Thompson Community Health Unit, where lab and x-ray technology is already located, to run a temporary urgent care centre. Sylvan Lake doctors were committed to running the centre.
Samson said the committee executive is now focusing on meeting with Health Minister Fred Horne who has recognized the health concerns in Sylvan Lake.
Sylvan Lake resident Annie Boychuk, whose husband collapsed in August in the town and later died from a heart attack, said Alberta Health Services’ decision is completely unacceptable.
She wants emergency care available in Sylvan Lake, not just urgent care.
“We need this. We needed this years ago so I don’t know what Alberta Health Services is thinking, maybe for a couple more deaths to happen?” Boychuk said.
“It’s neglect. We will fight for emergency care here in Sylvan Lake for residents and surrounding residents and the visitors.”Boychuk intends to be at the opening session of the Alberta legislature in October with supporters, petitions and letters.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle said Alberta Health Services is failing to recognize the needs of all Albertans.
“Our ambulance situation, like many communities, is in a state of constant stress. We don’t really have adequate coverage. Then to top it off, we don’t have any facility to deal with an emergency,” said the Wildrose MLA.
She said the health minister and Alberta Health Services have the power to override the decision of AHS Central Zone.
Towle said Sylvan Lake and area have put together a fiscally responsible plan. Meanwhile AHS refuses to do a full audit of its health officials expense reports as promised, opting only to examine reports of former CFO Allaudin Merali.
“Last week (AHS) put a call out to departments to find 1.8 per cent of the budget, which is right around $186 million, and that money is going to be used specifically to further the health care quality council review and family care clinics.”
“The problem isn’t that there’s not enough money. The problem is priorities and where the money is spent.”
AHS Central Zone was contacted by the Red Deer Advocate but were unable to respond on Tuesday.