Health foundation committed to finding grassroots solutions
Airdrie’s Regional Health Foundation (ARHF) will continue to fight for health care in the community despite concerns over the provincial budget.
Representatives from the committee, made up of health-care professionals, residents and local politicians, asked some tough questions at an Alberta Health Services (AHS) Calgary zone meeting at AHS offices in Calgary, Jan. 30.
“We dominated most of the question period,” said foundation member and Airdrie Alderman Allan Hunter.
“They were going to report to the community what the challenges were, (but) we kept bringing it back asking can we have a commitment that you will redistribute dollars to Airdrie?”
Hunter said a number of AHS officials, such as Chairman Steve Lockwood, and Dr. Chris Eagle, CEO, were in attendance as were representatives from Okotoks and Cochrane.
Hunter said officials discussed the economic concerns revealed by Premier Alison Redford in January, which stem from lower than expected oil and gas royalties that has been dubbed the “bitumen bubble.”
He said officials warned the budget shortfall means AHS will have to make some cuts.
Hunter said he hopes AHS will make its cuts from its own administration, rather than front-line workers.
“We are not going to accept the bitumen bubble in our community,” he said, adding the ARHF will continue to fight for better health care in Airdrie by setting up a website, looking at plans to get a bigger building and trying to recruit doctors to work at both the city’s family clinics and Airdrie’s urgent care centre.
Hunter said at the end of the meeting Lockwood approached ARHF representatives and said he is committed to looking at the overall needs of Airdrie in a face-to-face meeting.
“We want to let them know that we are a significant group, we represent a significant majority of the community,” said Hunter.
“We are here, we aren’t going away.”
Foundation member Michelle Bates said she is confident AHS has a better idea of Airdronians’ needs than they did before the meeting.
“I think they know that we need a bigger facility and that we need more doctors,” she said.
Despite her confidence, Bates expressed some concern over the upcoming provincial budget.
“I think there is gong to be cuts and I’m not confident we won’t be included in that,” she said.
“They did talk quite a bit about how the government is going to have to cut. We were told they will have to cut and (communities) will have to deal with that.”
Should cuts occur, Bates said the ARHF will continue its work.
Bates said the foundation will be able to make concrete plans after the budget is tabled, March 8.
“Hopefully we will have a better plan from AHS then,” she said, adding the foundation is hoping to increase the number of beds in Airdrie and expand the hours urgent care’s hours of operation.
“We would like to have beds for overnight stays,” said Bates.
According to Hunter, Airdrie, with a population of just under 50,000, has eight beds, an unacceptable number when compared to Cochrane, which has 20 beds serving less than 20,000 people.
“This is about people,” said Hunter. “People dying in our community is not acceptable.”