Rocky hospital needs assessment overdue

The wait continues for an assessment on the need for a new hospital for Rocky Mountain House.

The wait continues for an assessment on the need for a new hospital for Rocky Mountain House.

Rocky Mountain House Mayor Fred Nash said Alberta Health Services was suppose to have the needs assessment finished last August. That was first delayed until October. Now it’s due out sometime before the end of winter.

“From our point of view, it should have been done in October and we should have the results but government works at its own pace,” said Nash.

“We’re very hopeful. I don’t have a date, but we’re crossing all our t’s and dotting our i’s and working with system.”

In 2014, a hospital committee made up of council members from Rocky Mountain House, the Village of Caroline and Clearwater County, released a proposal calling for a new hospital.

Nash, who is chair of the hospital committee, said an assessment done about six years ago identified the need for a new hospital to serve the vast geographic area where many people in oil and gas and forestry industries work. As well, the region attracts recreational visitors year round.

“On a long weekend, we can have an extra 60,000 people in the West Country. The people come out and do high-risk activities, whether its quading or snowmobiling or whatever. Some of them get hurt, then our hospital is overcapacity.”

Rocky Mountain House Health Centre, which serves a steady population of 25,000, was built in 1971 and has about 31 acute care beds.

During 2013-14, STARS air ambulance made 41 missions to the Rocky Mountain House hospital or area. It was the fifth most frequented community. Red Deer had the most missions at 60.

The Rocky hospital is also in need of a new helipad.

“There are indicators out there that show the need is there,” Nash said.

“We have a quality of life we want to maintain and health care is an essential part of it.”

He said it’s important to be ahead of the game so it doesn’t turn into a crisis, which is getting closer all the time.

Nash said he has spoken briefly with Health Minister Stephen Mandel and has met with Premier Jim Prentice seven times.

“(Prentice) is well aware of our concerns.”

He said the hospital committee will continue to push for a new hospital for the region.

“We don’t ask for any special favours. We just ask to be treated equal,” Nash said.

A statement from Alberta Health Services said the needs assessment is underway and takes into consideration a number of factors, such as demographics, service delivery options and assessment of existing facilities.

A new hospital for Rocky was identified as a priority project for AHS Central Zone in its 2014 capital submission to the province.

“AHS will continue to meet with town, village and county officials to discuss future health service needs in the area,” said Kerry Bales, chief zone officer, AHS Central Zone, in the statement.

He said regular maintenance is done at Rocky Mountain House Health Centre to ensure it continues to meet the needs of area residents. About $367,000 in maintenance enhancements have been completed at the facility since 2010.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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