Airdrie Health Park Initiative proposes health co-operative
Thursday, Feb 04, 2016 11:13 am
It’s going to take a made-in-Airdrie solution led by the Airdrie Health Foundation (AHF) and supported by the community to improve healthcare in the city.
That was the message the Airdrie Health Park Initiative (AHPI) made during a presentation to Airdrie City council on Feb. 1, and it’s the same message they and the Airdrie Health Foundation (AHF) brought when they met with the provincial Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Carl Amrhein on Feb. 3.
What the AHPI proposes is the creation of an Airdrie Health Benefits Co-operative, a citizen-centred entity in partnership with Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS), local physicians and the City of Airdrie. The co-operative would encompass both a proposed Airdrie Health Park and 24-hour urgent care.
“This co-operative will assume overall responsibility to provide all health and health care needs for the community of Airdrie,” said Doug Smith with Organomics Inc., one of two consultants contracted by the AHPI a number of months ago.
“By saying it’s a co-operative, the community is an equal owner and controller of health care and health care delivery in the community.
“Today, health care is driven by Alberta Health and AHS. What the co-op would do is, it would change that equation. The community would have as much say in the outlay of dollars and the services provided as Alberta Health and AHS. It puts you on equal footing with them, allowing you to construct and direct the health care you think the community needs.”
According to Smith, health co-operatives are not unique. There are more than 60 across Canada – although there is only one other in Alberta – and more than 1,000 in the United Kingdom.
“It’s kind of a movement,” he said. “It’s new here but it’s tried and proven around the world.”
Smith told council AHPI would make a number of requests during its meeting with Amrhein on Feb. 3, including asking Alberta Health and AHS to accept its proposal to form a co-operative, to help work on articles of incorporation and bylaws for the co-op, and to support a study to find the best location for the Airdrie Health Park.
“We (also) think some work needs to begin immediately to determine an interim and long-term solution for 24-hour care – that means emergent care, urgent care and after hours care,” he said.
“What excites me about this opportunity is applying some innovation and entrepreneurial (spirit) to building a community-based health care facility with community input so we can grow it to the size it needs to be,” said Don Bell, co-founder of WestJet and a member of the AHPI who is working with the AHF to bring 24-hour health care to the community.
“Things are way out of whack here in Airdrie and it’s time we moved this initiative forward. We’re going to need some money to get the people to work on planning and engaging the community and all those stakeholders to move this forward.”
Council was asked to support the initial steps towards the creation of a co-op by providing funding. According to Smith, the proposal includes an initial budget of $200,000 to be shared between Alberta Health (50 per cent), AHS (25 per cent) and the community (25 per cent).
Council unanimously approved taking $50,000 from the City’s reserves to support the proposal for a co-op and the building of the Airdrie Health Park.
Dr. Julian Kyne, who was the medical director of the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre until Nov. 30, 2015, when his contract was not renewed by AHS, said he felt Airdrie was at a “critical time here.”
“We have the community fully supportive and understanding what the issues are and I think over the past few months we’ve seen the support that’s out there. We have traction with the new government as well. And most importantly, I have all sorts of physicians who are really excited about this proposition.”
The outcome of the meeting with AHPI, AHF and the deputy minister was not known by press time.