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Central Alberta mayors unite for health-care changes

Letter to provincial Health Minister Jason Copping signed by 17 mayors
A paitent in a waiting room at the Innisfail Health Centre. While waiting times to be served are not known to be an issue at the Innisfail hospital they are problematic in many other provincial municipalities. A group of Central Alberta mayors is now advocating for healthcare changes. Submitted photo

INNISFAIL – Mayors across central Alberta sent a letter to provincial health minister Jason Copping seeking a meeting to address health-care concerns before they become an “unmanageable crisis.”

The letter on April 26 was signed by 17 Central Alberta mayors, including Innisfail’s Jean Barclay, Olds’ Judy Dahl, Bowden’s Robb Stuart and Sundre’s Richard Warnock.

“All of us are struggling with many things,” Barclay told the Albertan.

The letter to Copping noted the mayors’ collective concerns on service levels, staffing challenges, EMS shortfalls and emergency department closures, which they say impacts access to service and in some cases standards of care for residents.

Barclay added the ambulatory care issue across the region has been frequently shut down, and more specifically to Innisfail, she noted there has been pressures on the fire department’s first responders because no ambulances have been available.

But most importantly, said Barclay, is that the inequities in the system must be addressed.

“What really bothers us is when we see funding for the South Zone and North Zone is so much different than what we've seen in Central Alberta,” said Barclay. “It's time that we're going to ask the government to listen to us and start paying attention to Central Alberta.”

The mayors’ letter on April 26 said their attempts to collaborate with and inform Alberta Health Services Central Zone of their concerns have not resulted in any outcomes.

In March, the Town of Ponoka submitted a request for decision to the Alberta Municipalities Mayors’ Caucus that resulted with a “key message” that municipalities across the province should be included in the decision-making process when it comes to health-care issues concerning their communities.

“This request for decision achieved 89 per cent support by municipalities across the province,and this level of support clearly demonstrates a province-wide frustration with many aspects of health care services,” said the letter to Copping. “With no end in sight nor a clear path forward, we feel the need to address these concerns before they become an unmanageable crisis.”

The mayors’ letter concludes with an invitation to Copping to meet and allow municipalities to share their concerns and possible solutions for Central Alberta communities.

“In particular, we would welcome the opportunity to explore ways and means in which we can strive to make Central Alberta a health care employment destination of choice,” said the letter.

According to a recent Town of Innisfail media release, the mayors’ group is currently awaiting a response from the health minister to their letter.


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