Alberta Health Services to review urgent care in Airdrie
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 11:28 am
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has committed to a comprehensive review of Airdrie’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC) that will be completed by spring 2014.
The review, according to AHS, will include a look at the current infrastructure of the Airdrie UCC to improve physical space and patient flow, as well as an administrative review, which will incorporate frontline input to improve workplace culture and work processes.
The review is one of six the Province is conducting surrounding Calgary after AHS conducted an Urgent Care Centre Calgary Zone Review and Recommendations report that was released in December 2013. This is the first infrastructure review the Airdrie centre has received, according to Dr. Francois Belanger, medical director for the Calgary Zone with AHS.
“This assessment is to ensure that the urgent care centres are properly staffed and that staff are appropriately trained,” said Belanger. “We are ensuring that all of our centres are staffed by competent people with the right skill set.”
While the recently announced review is not formally a part of the process to secure a 24-hour facility, Airdrie Health Foundation (AHF) board members Alderman Allan Hunter and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson share the notion that 24-hour health care is closer to a reality now that they have the ear of AHS.
“Although the (AHF) has met with representatives from AHS in the past, this all-day meeting was clearly moving things to the next level,” said Anderson in a press release, referring to the meeting that was held in Airdrie on Feb. 3. “We had detailed discussions regarding Airdrie’s population growth rates, demographics and unique medical needs. We also received an outline as to the extensive process involved in securing a 24-hour facility and how the Foundation and community can work together to speed up and remove barriers in that process.”
According to the AHS report, the review is intended to “understand the concerns raised and issues at some of the Calgary Zones UCC’s (and) a comparative analysis of UCC’s in Calgary and Edmonton was undertaken. This review included data from six UCC’s: Airdrie Health Centre, Cochrane Health Centre, Health First Strathcona, Okotoks Health and Wellness Centre, Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre and South Calgary Health Centre.”
The report also states that Airdrie’s UCC had an average of 81 visits per day between the operating hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and saw 29,429 people go through the doors from April 2012 to January 2013. According to the report, Cochrane saw 21,227 people go through its UCC doors in the same time period.
In that same fiscal year, Airdrie UCC had more than 1,800 patients leave the facility without being seen, one of the stats that led to the upcoming review, according to the document.
Treatment space was also reviewed and the Airdrie UCC currently has one space available per 5,079 residents; conversely, Cochrane’s urgent care centre has one space per 799 residents and Okotoks has one space per 1,920 residents at their urgent care centre.
The 2012/2013 review shows that currently Airdrie Health Centre has nine beds available compared to Cochrane which offers 22 beds and Okotoks with 13.
“What this report from AHS tells us is that they’ve listened to our concerns,” said Hunter. “They’re telling us what we already knew and we’re finally all starting to get on the same page.”
Hunter says the AHF has been instrumental in putting the wheels in motion and grabbing the attention of AHS, and also lent credit to the unified voice of Airdrie’s elected officials.
“We made this an election issue last fall, that healthcare was a major concern,” he said. “This says to the Provincial government and AHS that this is a real issue for the people of Airdrie.”
Belanger echoed Hunter’s statements, saying it was time to start expanding the AHS focus north of Calgary.
“We have done a lot of work in the south of Calgary and now it’s time to start looking north of the city,” said Belanger. “We have heard the concerns of Airdrie over the past year, we’ve looked at the growth in the city and we feel it’s important to look at it closely to make sure we have the appropriate number of beds and trained staff on site.”
Wildrose Health Critic Heather Forsyth weighed in on the AHS review, in an official statement that was released on Feb. 5.
“This review absolutely sounds the alarm on the state of urgent care in the Calgary area and makes the very clear point that this government’s current policies are putting patients at risk,” said Forsyth.
Hunter said he sees the upcoming review as a light at the end of a long tunnel and hopes to see more advancements made in the near future.
“This clearly says to the AHF that AHS has realized we are very motivated, we’re funded and we have a plan in place,” said Hunter. “Without the work done by the AHF in establishing a funding model, a business plan, building design, I don’t think we would have even been on the list to be reviewed this soon.”