Those lobbying for better health care in Sylvan Lake reacted with relief to news that proposed family care clinics will not be abandoned.
New Health Minister Stephen Mandel confirmed on Tuesday that nine family care clinics working their way through the approval process will not be scrapped.
“There’s nine of them in the queue, and we’re going to look at those and see how to make them work,” said Mandel, who was in Olds to unveil the province’s new review of health care in rural and under-serviced areas.
Concerns were raised that the clinics — up to 140 in all — proposed by former premier Alison Redford would be abandoned as the province seeks to modernize health care.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre was encouraged that the province will honour its commitment to the nine proposed clinics. Three others already operating will also continue.
“That’s really what’s got us encouraged right now,” said McIntyre, who watched Mandel’s news conference and a question-and-answer session online.
“Our global approach to developing and improving health-care services to Sylvan Lake and area appears to be right in line with what Premier (Jim) Prentice and his government are proposing.”
Sylvan Lake hopes to take advantage of the family care clinic initiative to create a new health care centre offering seven-day-a-week treatment for non-life-threatening injuries and ailments, with extended hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. It would include lab and diagnostic imaging (X-ray) services, observation beds and access to preventive treatment such as mental health services.
McIntyre said the area including Sylvan Lake, Bentley, Eckville, five summer villages and surrounding rural areas is 20,000 strong and needs better health care access.
“Despite the change in government, that need hasn’t changed.”
An 18-person volunteer committee has been working for years on the local care clinic project.
A business plan is nearing completion and is expected to be submitted to Alberta Health soon.
McIntyre said his council wants a face-to-face meeting with the premier and health minister to bring them up to speed on local health care efforts.
Wildrose Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle said the nine groups seeking family care clinics have put a lot of time and money into their proposals and business plans.
Those initiatives are an example of local decision making, she said.
“They came up with the solutions. The doctors have managed their own time to provide a solution and they’re being virtually ignored,” she said.
“We hope that Mr. Mandel will see that with those nine (family care clinics), he’ll continue to go forward and give them an answer very, very soon.”