Enhanced health care: Progress being made, work still to be done

While there’s still plenty of work to be done in the town’s pursuit of enhanced health care, progress is being made

While there’s still plenty of work to be done in the town’s pursuit of enhanced health care, progress is being made, Sylvan Lake residents were told during a town hall meeting at the Community Centre last Wednesday.

They also learned of the new guise the pursuit has taken on, as Community Advisory Committee members provided an update on the push for a Family Care Clinic — which the province identified Sylvan Lake as a potential location for last year.

“At the end of September, (we hope to) have the first draft of a business case on the Minister’s desk,” said advisory committee chair Susan Samson. “We’re not sure when our paperwork is going to get looked at, and when the approvals may come through, but that’s what our timeline is.”

The shift in focus from urgent care to a Family Care Clinic occurred after the committee, formerly known as the Sylvan Lake and Area Urgent Care Committee, learned from Alberta Health Services that the Sylvan Lake area “was not high on the priority list,” explained Samson.

“There was no money for urgent care, and there was no money for a hospital,” she said. “The province came back and said, ‘we have money for what we’re going to call a Family Care Clinic,’ and because Sylvan Lake had done so much groundwork and so much lobbying for urgent care, we were approved to move to the next step.”

She continued: “Quite frankly, I don’t care what we call it, and I don’t think you care either. We want enhanced health care.”

Advisory committee vice chair Teresa Rilling elaborated on the benefits of a Family Care Clinic, saying it would actually be more effective in meeting the town’s needs than an urgent care facility.

“It’s a linkage between services, rather than simply being another service,” she said. “We want to connect health and wellness services within our community and beyond, so that when our neighbours around us come here for health care, they will really feel like they can come to one place and be well taken care of.”

Dr. Brad Bahler, providing a physician’s perspective, encouraged Sylvan Lake residents to show faith in those who are leading the push for the town’s Family Care Clinic.

“Put your trust in the Community Advisory Committee,” he said. “They represent a broad spectrum of Sylvan Lake, they really have your best interest at heart, and they’ve done a lot of good work to date.”

Samson emphasized that the issue of enhanced health care affects residents not just of Sylvan Lake. Residents of places like Bentley, Eckville and the Summer Villages would also benefit from a Family Care Clinic in Sylvan Lake, she said. Altogether, she feels it would positively affect between 18,000 and 22,000 area residents, as well as the “1.5 million visitors that this lake and area gets annually.”

If approval is received from the province, committee and board representatives will continue working with a consultant to determine further details of the business case to be presented, such as the facility’s size, location and staffing.

Mayor Sean McIntyre said he was encouraged by the progress being made, but warned there’s still plenty of work ahead.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “With the recent change in government, I’m asking for your support to contact the provincial government and let them know that this is still vital … in Sylvan Lake.”