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Olds councillors disappointed about not being able to attend big health-care meeting

Town of Olds CAO Brent Williams attends health-care meeting with Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper as well as a couple of local doctors and senior Alberta Health Services management, among others

OLDS — A big  meeting of health-care officials -- including Health Minister Jason Copping -- was held in Olds but town councillors were unable to attend, because it occurred at the same time as an Alberta Municipalities (AM) convention in Calgary.

During a council meeting, some councillors expressed disappointment that that health-care meeting, held Sept. 22 at the Olds College of Agriculture & Technology’s Alumni Centre, occurred without their participation. 

 Coun. Heather Ryan said Mayor Judy Dahl should write a letter outlining council’s concerns about the meeting and its timing. 

The Albertan contacted Dahl and asked if the letter had been sent. 

Dahl said not only was it not sent, it was not even written, because she’s confident Copping and his staff are working to improve health care and address concerns about things like the number of doctors and other health care professionals in the community. 

Besides, she said, no motion was actually made during the Sept. 26 council meeting for her to write and sign such a letter. 

Dahl noted that Copping attended the AM convention and spoke about what his ministry is doing regarding health-care concerns and issues. 

 “We were all at Alberta Municipalities and we all heard Minister Copping speak at his panel session,” Dahl said. 

“You know, what he’s doing is engagement and engagement seemed to be very well received, so there was no sense at this time and this point for me to draft a letter on behalf of all council.” 

Dahl also said she and several other mayors discussed health-care issues during a Municipal Area Partnership meeting and seemed to be pretty happy with what’s being done on the health-care front. 

Dahl was asked if she’s confident that the province is working to solve concerns like the number and availability of doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals in Olds. 

“Yes, personally as mayor I’m very confident,” she said. 

“And speaking to my Municipal Area Partnership mayors, they all agree that they were very happy with the outcome, so I’m going to leave it at that for today.” 

Brent Williams, the town’s chief administrative officer, came back from the AM convention to attend the health-care meeting. 

He reported on it to council. 

Williams said those in attendance at the health-care meeting included Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper as well as a couple of local doctors and senior Alberta Health Services management. 

“It was a roundtable about the challenges and opportunities facing health care in rural Alberta specifically, so it was a pretty interesting meeting,” Williams said. 

“It was done fairly well. It was unfortunate that it was scheduled during the same time as the convention. I think there was value there, for sure.” 

Ryan said she found it “disconcerting” that a meeting that large occurred, yet was "very poorly advertised” and “therefore poorly unattended by the people who actually AHS serves.”  

Hence, she called for Dahl to write a letter expressing council’s disappointment about that, including the timing of the gathering. 

"They’ll probably go out and say to the province or to the people across the province, ‘well, we had these regional meetings.’ Well, do you classify that as a regional meeting being held? I do not,” Ryan said. 

Dahl and Williams said they had discussed those concerns with Cooper. 

Williams noted the Olds meeting was the 23rd such gathering. He was unsure how many more might be held.  

"Basically (it) just got lost in the bureaucratic shuffle of scheduling this many events at one time,” he said. 

Williams said during the meeting in Olds, Copping stressed that in order to reduce overload of health-care facilities, residents need to go to their local doctor or clinic first, rather than the hospital. 

He said Copping also outlined a plan unveiled by the provincial government to provide more ambulances and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff as well as more health-care staff in general. 

Coun. Ryan was contacted by the Albertan for her response to the mayor’s decision not to write a letter on the matter.

In an email, Ryan said councillors were unable to attend the health-care meeting because they were in Calgary all week for the AM convention.

"That was why I raised the concern that the minister’s office scheduled this type of meeting in our community with the convention going on and council was unable to participate," she wrote.

"Thank goodness our CAO was able to leave the convention early to attend this session on health in our stead and share info with council."