As certain as I am that the title will provoke more than a few great zingers, it’s actually true: I need urgent care. If you live in Central Alberta, you do too.
Urgent Care Centres are essentially walk-in clinics on steroids (no that does not mean they actually give out steroids. It’s a metaphor – sheesh). In addition to the ability to see doctors without having an appointment, there would be a lab and diagnostic imaging on site. At some urgent care centres there are even psychiatric supports and wrap around services available. These centres are typically open long into the evening – one Alberta centre, in Calgary, is actually open 24/7. There are seven urgent care centres in Alberta, but none in Central Alberta.
Why does Central Alberta – Sylvan Lake specifically – need urgent care? We can start with doctor shortages, long wait times for appointments, dwindling number of people with family doctors, the still oversubscribed emergency waiting room at Red Deer Regional replete with long wait times, etc. etc. Everyone, including the government, already knows of these long-standing issues. Much is being done to find innovative solutions to address those things singularly. But an Urgent Care Centre would considerably improve things on all those fronts.
Let’s look at Sylvan: the community is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s appealing to young families and commuters because of its beauty, impressive sports and recreation focus and its strong sense of community. In summer, being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the province results in a significant swell in population. So think about it: hockey, golf, water slides, beaches, deep water, boating, fishing, young children, young people, and more! The potential for illness and accident is huge. What community would be more in need of significant urgent care services? Why doesn’t Central Alberta have an urgent care centre, and why is it not already in place in Sylvan Lake?
I pondered these thoughts and questions as I drove in to Sylvan Lake last Wednesday night to attend a town hall meeting on the issue. I was completely astonished to see an estimated 500+ people out on a night of blistering wind chill, but it really underscored the community passion for this issue. Over and over I heard that night that all politicians need to understand how important this is to this community and to Central Alberta as a whole. I wholeheartedly agree!
The main sentiment at this meeting was frustration. The community has been advocating for this for 20 years. It was part of the ten-year plan 20 years ago. Eight years ago they formed a steering committee to drive advocacy and planning efforts, with eighteen citizens from all facets of community working together to get this done. The message I heard repeatedly was that the constant restructuring of Health Care Services in Alberta has repeatedly put the initiative back at ground zero. With the advent of the super board a few years ago, Urgent Care for Sylvan Lake went off the back burner and into thin air. People have had enough. They’re getting louder and they’re not going away. I don’t understand why it hasn’t been viewed by government as a high priority up until now, but they won’t be able to ignore this community any longer. These folks are organized, well-researched and at the end of their patience (not patients; they have plenty of those).
I always say that if you want the most bang for your buck, get as much money and as much autonomy as close to the ground as possible. By offering the community a wider variety of ways to deliver localized, community-based health care services, no one avenue gets bottle necked or overloaded. You’ll see in the Alberta Party policy that we talk about the wisdom diversifying health care delivery to accomplish this. It doesn’t mean putting more money into the system; it means a redistribution of health care delivery to more effectively meet the variety of needs in the variety of ways they present themselves.
Urgent Care Centres represent a smart and efficient alternative to emergency room care. The community is advocating aggressively on this and I whole heartedly support them and add my voice to the call.
We’ve been told an extra $900 million is coming to Alberta for Health Care. The Alberta Party would like to know how that money is being spent. Now is the time to tell Minister Fred Horne to allocate some of that money to build an Urgent Care Centre in Sylvan Lake for Central Alberta.