Sylvan Lake receives long-awaited urgent care confirmation

After years of lobbying, rallying and fundraising, Sylvan Lakers on Monday finally heard the news they’ve all been waiting for.

Susan Samson is congratulated as she celebrates the news Sylvan Lake has long been waiting for — urgent care is finally coming to town.

Susan Samson is congratulated as she celebrates the news Sylvan Lake has long been waiting for — urgent care is finally coming to town.

After years of lobbying, rallying and fundraising, Sylvan Lakers on Monday finally heard the news they’ve all been waiting for.

Urgent care is coming to town.

The news arrived with the provincial government’s announcement on Monday that $3.4 billion is being budgeted for health facilities in the next five years. An urgent care centre for Sylvan Lake was part of that announcement, and the news spawned jubilation among those who have fought to see it move forward.

“What a win,” said Urgent Care Committee chair Susan Samson. “It’s been such a long journey, and it’s been all of us together. This is such a win for the community.”

Details of the facility’s construction and what it will look like are currently limited, but Samson said it will enable access to medical treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.

“If you’re having a heart attack or if there’s been a bad vehicular accident, those people will still go to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment,” she said. “We’re non-life-threatening medical treatment, and we will have lab and X-ray, doctors on site and be open seven days a week with extended hours.

“We’ll also have observation beds, so for example if you’re dehydrated, or if they want to see if you have a reaction to the medicine they’re prescribing, they have a way to watch you, but it’s not any kind of long-term bed or overnight bed.”

The announcement came just days after the province confirmed potential plans for a Family Care Clinic (FCC) in Sylvan Lake were scrapped.

Steve Buick, spokesperson for Health Minister Stephen Mandel, said urgent care was seen as an all-around better fit for Sylvan Lake.

“We’re not funding the Family Care Centres because we think that it’s just not a good approach to lock primary care into a particular structure for every community, but we are willing to look at alternatives, and in Sylvan Lake, there is one — it’s the urgent care centre,” he said before Monday’s announcement was made.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle on Monday commended the many individuals whose hard work and dedication to the cause helped maintain its priority status for the area.

Annie Boychuk — whose husband Brent died from a heart attack in 2012 after being taken to two closed medical clinics in Sylvan Lake — deserved special recognition on the day, Towle felt.

“Annie really put her story out there. She made it public, and she didn’t have to,” said Towle. “Her passion and her dedication to this issue moved mountains, and moved a community, so a huge thank you to her.”

Towle added the announcement was positive news not just for Sylvan Lake, but also for the one million visitors it receives annually and nearby municipalities.

Changes in government, community collaboration and a solid business plan put forth by the Urgent Care Committee, she feels, are responsible for the positive outcome.

“You can ask the government for different things, but you have to give them a way to say yes, and I think this community did that,” she said. “The fact that they stayed with it — $60,000 was given to urgent care when they didn’t even know if it was on the table — that’s amazing, and it just goes to show the passion of the community and surrounding areas.”

Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre described Monday as “an incredible day for the Sylvan Lake area,” and felt the announcement provided some much-needed relief after it was confirmed Sylvan Lake would not receive FCC funding.

“We’ve been working so hard for this as a community — we’ve had a volunteer committee, our physicians, local governments from all five summer villages, both counties, the Town of Sylvan Lake, Bentley, Eckville and Benalto — and I think when you pair that up with an MLA who’s ready to represent us, and a government who’s ready to hear us, we see great successes like this,” he said. “It’s great to see the government paying attention to a community and a region that has great potential, is healthy, is growing, and now, will finally have the services that it needs.”