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First eSIM lab in an Alberta small town opens in Sundre

Training space adjacent to the Sundre Fire Department hall will be available not only to emergency responders but community groups as well
MVT sundre eSIM lab opens
Gerald Ingeveld, chair of the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee, and Sue Barnes, medical simulation lead with Alberta Health Services, pose beside a $100,000 medical mannequin during the grand opening of the new Sundre eSIM Lab on Wednesday. Sundre mayor Richard Warnock and area MLA Jason Nixon were among those who attended the grand opening. Dan Singleton/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — Today marks the beginning of a dream toward Sundre becoming a rural health-care campus.

A ribbon cutting for an eSIM lab in renovated space adjacent to the Sundre Fire Department hall was held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 13.

The eSIM acronym stands for: educate, Simulate, Innovate and Motivate.

The now-renovated space will deliver a local capacity for medical training without ever having to leave town. While emergency responders and health-care staff will get to use the lab for training, the new space will also be available to the Sundre Fire Department as well as the municipality and other community groups.

“We’re the first one operating in a small town,” Gerald Ingeveld told Town of Sundre council during a presentation last month.

The Sundre Hospital Futures Committee chair added Sundre could potentially become a model for province-wide delivery of eSIM labs in rural areas.

Originally forming in 2010 with a focus on recruiting and retaining health-care professionals, the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee has since evolved to include other objectives and eventually created a health foundation in partnership with Wetaskiwin, Rimbey and Olds, said Ingeveld.

So, while the non-profit organization of course continues to pursue recruitment and retention efforts, the group has also branched out into fundraising not only for new hospital equipment but also to provide more local educational and training opportunities.

Offering a little historical context prior to his presentation about the new eSIM lab, Ingeveld told council about the committee’s fundraising efforts over the past number of years that among other things led to the addition of state-of-the-art heart monitors at the Sundre hospital.

Ingeveld also recounted an anecdote from a local doctor who was on-call one evening when the new monitors promptly sent information to his laptop while he was resting in the physicians’ lounge.

“He was able to respond immediately to a situation that was happening in the E.R.,” said Ingeveld. “So, one life saved.”

The committee’s 2022 fundraising goal is $250,000, he said, adding the big gala is lined up in November.

The effort to develop an eSIM lab in Sundre all started when the hospital’s site lead brought to the committee’s attention a need for more space to train.

“The training room in the hospital is really too small to work with,” said Ingeveld. “It’s about the size of the men’s washroom.”

While that amount of space might at one point in time have sufficed, needs have long since outgrown the room, he said.  

Additionally, the Connect Care system – described by the Alberta Health Services website as “a new way of using and sharing health information to improve patient care” – is also being installed at the hospital, he said.

“So, the only training room they have is now full of computers for training people how to operate the Connect Care system.”

Modern training that involves more realistic scenarios such as mannequins that can simulate a variety of health emergencies require space, and so Ingeveld said he was put on the task to find it.

Turning to the municipality for assistance, Ingeveld said those discussions led to identifying formerly vacant office space in the shared-building adjacent to the Sundre Fire Department’s hall.

Ingeveld expressed not only appreciation to be able to work alongside the municipality, but also gratitude for council and administration’s support along the way.

Coun. Jaime Marr asked how many eSIM labs are in Alberta.

Ingeveld said he was of the understanding there are four: Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat and now Sundre.

“Those are the stationary ones,” he said. “And then they have a mobile truck that zips around across Alberta. They’re somewhere everyday.”  

Coun. Chris Vardas praised the group as hard working and crucial in the local effort to recruit and retain health-care professionals.

“This committee has done so much work it’s unbelievable,” said Vardas, who went on to express enthusiasm for Sundre being set to become more of an educational hub for rural medical training.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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