The Airdrie Urgent Care Centre is facing space shortages as the population of Airdrie continues to grow.
Open 24 hours a day, the Main Street health-care facility provides care for patients who experience unexpected but non-life-threatening injuries.
“Alberta Health Services, as well as the government, knows that there needs to be an increase of space as the community gets bigger,” said executive director of the Airdrie Health Foundation, Michelle Bates.
Currently, Airdronians needing serious medical procedures or child deliveries must travel to other communities – usually Calgary – to receive care. The local urgent care centre is not an emergency room and, according to Bates, the difference between the two is clear.
For example, although the facility is equipped to deal with some emergencies, like caring for a patient who presents symptoms of a heart attack, the Airdrie facility is not the ideal place for that patient to receive treatment, Bates said.
“[The foundation] is very much trying to push the notion that we’re not Calgary and Calgary is not where we need to be and we need to be able to have all this care here in Airdrie,” she added.
A charitable organization, the Airdrie Health Foundation raises funds to increase and improve the health and wellness services offered in Airdrie.
“The facility has expanded and they have more resources than they have had in the past years, but we’re hoping one day to be a true emergency department,” Bates said.
Agreeing with Bates, Ryan Thomspon, the board chair of the Airdrie Health Foundation, noted the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre is not a fully equipped hospital.
“There’s potentially a misalignment of expectations for people here,” he said. “A 24-hour health facility and they think hospital and they think all the things that should be included in that…we’re just not a place where those expectations and the reality are always in alignment.”
To work towards accommodating more severe health emergencies, the foundation is focusing its attention on increasing the space within the current centre, according to Thompson.
Although Bates and Thompson agree the centre will need to relocate to a bigger building in the long term, the short-term goal for the foundation is to work to increase the space within Airdrie’s current facility.
“The building ultimately is a little bit undersized for the community of Airdrie,” Thomspon said. “From the foundation perspective, we would love to see a new, bigger building and expanded services.”
The Airdrie Health Foundation and AHS are working on creating a short-term plan for the centre. The two organizations do not have concrete plans, but Bates said she is “very optimistic that things will move forward.”
Bates suggested that relocating some of the clinics inside the healthcare facility would provide an opportunity for the urgent care centre to expand, which would increase the number of health services the centre’s staff are able to offer Airdrie residents. However, Bates’s short-term solution is not a set plan and the foundation remains in the planning stages with AHS.
“Whether that’s keeping the existing building and just changing what clinics are in there and moving some elsewhere, that can be a possibility or having a new building that encompasses all of that. But more space is needed,” Bates said.
According to Thompson, the foundation has received feedback from the Airdrie community that the city needs to have an expanded scope of health services readily available. Airdrie is currently Alberta’s largest city to not have its own hospital.
“We said, give us a wish list and we received feedback from every corner [of the community],” Thompson added.
Airdrie residents have asked for services like expanded diagnostic testing, lab testing, harm reduction, support for seniors, and hospice care.
The extended services within the facility could also help “close the gap” between the centre and an emergency hospital, Thompson said.
Mayor Peter Brown and the minister of health for Alberta, Jason Copping, recently toured the urgent care centre. During the tour, Copping made a verbal promise, but according to Thomspon, the minister has not made a formal, written commitment to assist the facility.
“Although the minister hasn’t committed, Alberta Health Services is still working on things and looking at short-term, medium-term, and long-term planning,” Bates said.
Although the foundation hosts multiple fundraisers throughout the year, it also accepts donations year-round. Those interested can visit: bit.ly/3ty1Z3m
Moving forward, Bates advised Airdrie residents to continue advocating for their urgent care facility.
“Every single letter counts,” she said, encouraging concerned residents to contact their MLA – Peter Guthrie represents Airdrie-Cochrane while Angela Pitt represents Airdrie-East – as well as Alberta’s health minister, Jason Copping, and the premier, Jason Kenney.
“We’ve seen engagement from the minister and his team to try to explore things further [and] we’re just excited to be part of the conversation,” Thompson added.