“To be totally dismissed is unacceptable and we’re not taking it,” said Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson while briefing councillors Monday night on Alberta Health Services failure to include an urgent care centre in their zone plan.
She’s now requested a meeting with Health Minister Fred Horne and has sent a letter of the Sylvan Lake Urgent Care Committee’s concerns to Alberta Health Services (AHS) CEO Dr. Chris Eagle.
A media release was issued Tuesday morning stating AHS “has indicated it will not include any short or long term provisions in its latest Central Alberta Zone Integrated Plan. These revelations have shocked and disappointed the Sylvan Lake Urgent Care Committee.”
Samson, her voice indicating her emotion, told councillors “AHS made it clear we’re not in the plan … the entire committee is extremely upset, we’ve done everything in our power”.
Frustration also came out in Samson’s discussion with councillors. She described phone conversations with AHS officials, while trying to pin down whether or not Sylvan Lake’s requests were addressed, as “conversations about nothing”.
A paragraph from a letter by Kerry Bales, Senior Vice President, Central Zone, AHS was read by Samson. It states, “While the Zone Integrated Plan addresses the community’s longer term needs, rest assured, we are listening to the community and understand the concerns that have been brought forward related to access to current health care services.”
The letter described the purpose of the Zone Integrated Plan “is to provide a clear line of sight between provincial strategy, local health needs and service delivery changes at the zone level. It will help guide decisions about program and services delivery for the communities we serve into the future.”
“We had full expectations, based on a meeting with the minister, we would be recognized as a need,” said Samson.
In a March 9th letter, Horne wrote, “I understand your advocacy for an urgent care centre for Sylvan Lake, and I agree that it would appear the community’s needs are not currently being met. I was glad to hear you have a good working relationship with Alberta Health Services and encourage you to work with them to fully identify the health needs of the community. I understand that this work will be done in time for submission through the Zone Integrated Plan in September so that the longer term solutions can be implemented. In the interim, I am confident that AHS will work with you to find shorter term solutions, as was discussed.”
Samson said since that time they’ve collected data and researched solutions.
“The committee has proposed reasonable low cost solutions, including getting day beds into the current David Thompson Community Health Unit, where lab and x-ray technology is located, to start a temporary Urgent Care Centre,” she said in a media release. “These short-term solutions have all been dismissed by Alberta Health Services. Sylvan Lake has hosted provincially-led healthcare conversations where the key message was Urgent Care, we held a rally back in January with over 500 people in attendance and the key message was Urgent Care — when will Alberta Health Services get it?”
“I’m laying the blame fully on AHS,” Samson told councillors indicating she’s hoping the minister will revisit the issue with committee members and give them some direction.
“We’ve got serious situations going on out in our region,” she said. The medical clinic in Eckville is closing down this month and Bentley only has health services one day a week.
Samson said besides getting the minister involved, the other option is for a family care clinic. Her understanding of Premier Alison Redford’s campaign promise to open 140 new family care clinics is that they won’t be the same ‘cookie-cutter formula’ throughout the province but will address local needs.
The committee wants increased hours at a clinic where doctors have access to lab and x-ray services during those longer hours.
New information is being provided to residents of town through monthly utility bills so that they can continue their lobbying efforts.
On another front, Councillor Sean McIntyre said 20 letters were sent by employees of Sylvan Agencies to the health minister and premier Monday urging them to make urgent care a priority. “We’re calling on all employers in Sylvan Lake to help their employees in a letter writing campaign addressing the premier and the minister to make urgent care in Sylvan Lake a reality,” he said.