OLDS — There’s a waiting list of 2,600 people who don’t have a regular doctor in Olds, chief administrative officer Brent Williams says.
That's one of several health care issues the town is working on, Williams said during an address to the Olds & District Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting, held March 8 in the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #105.
“Olds has a problem with health care, a significant problem in my opinion,” Williams said.
“AHS (Alberta Health Services) tells us we have enough doctors, ‘everything’s fine, go away.’
“Right now, there’s 2,600 people on a waiting list between the two medical clinics in Olds, so that tells me everything’s not fine," he said.
According to the provincial government, the population in Olds in 2022 was 9,567.
As part of the effort to solve that problem, Williams said a committee has been struck to attract and retain not just doctors, but workers in all aspects of health care.
He said he began working on that with members of the Community Lifestyles Committee about three weeks after he began his job as CAO May 30 last year. It was up and running by last summer.
“Now we’re trying to find public members. Some of you have been involved in those conversations. But the chamber, we hope, will be even further involved down the road with the future A & R committee,” Williams said.
He said the town is holding discussions with AHS officials not only about attracting and retaining health care professionals but also about hospital privileges.
“That means doctors who can work in a clinic and have access to work in the hospital, because you need permission to work in a hospital. It’s a different funding model,” Williams said.
“That is very much is unclear right now. It also hurts a physician’s ability to stay in the community.”
Another focus of discussions with AHS is the future of the Olds Hospital and Care Centre.
“We get a lot of funding for parking lots and a 10-year MDR unit, sterilization, but outside of that, we haven’t gotten too much,” Williams said.
“There is a dialysis unit on the books for Olds, a scheduled dialysis unit for 12 years now.”
He called on the chamber to help the town make its case on these issues.
“How do we make this one voice that we have to improve the health care environment here,” he asked. “Because things aren’t going to get better by themselves. In fact, quite the opposite.”