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How Sundre's hospital became the Myron Thompson Health Centre

Name change pitched to the premier about a year ago

SUNDRE — The Sundre Hospital and Care Centre has officially been renamed in honour of a late, local leader who left an indelible legacy of dedication to service

Myron Thompson, whose outspoken views had occasionally courted controversy, built over decades of public service a reputation for unashamedly and passionately representing his community and constituents.

On Friday, Oct. 16, the Myron Thompson Health Centre was unveiled during a ceremony featuring speeches from many dignitaries, including Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, as well as Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon.

Kenney, who also spoke during Thompson’s 2019 memorial service, said, “It’s a chilly day, but it’s a very warm occasion.”

The premier praised Thompson as a man who sometimes had a “gruff exterior”, but who also had an enormous heart filled with boundless compassion.

“There is no citizen in the history of this community that has been more prominent,” he said.

“When minister Nixon came to me and made a proposal that we memorialize Myron’s contribution as a pillar of this community, as someone who personified the Alberta spirit of community, I couldn’t think of a better idea.”

Assuring about two-dozen people who attended that the hospital will continue serving the community and surrounding area, Kenney said to applause, “This is a guarantee of the long-term future of the Sundre hospital serving health care in this community and in central Alberta.”

Shandro hailed the facility’s more than 50 years of health-care provision including emergency, acute and long-term care, and said the government remains “absolutely committed to your hospital. The Myron Thompson Health Centre will continue to be Sundre’s hospital.”

Also sharing heartfelt memories of a man many considered a role model and mentor were Ron Fisher, a friend of the Thompson family; Terry Leslie, mayor of Sundre; Bruce Beattie, Mountain View County reeve; Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services; and Gerald Ingeveld, chair of the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee.

Following the ceremony, Nixon said during an interview with The Albertan when asked whether any others had been considered, such as the late and much loved Dr. Hal Irvine, he said, “There are so many people that this hospital could be named after. In fact, there’s too many to be able to put them all on the hospital sign.”

“I’m going to be careful not to try to name them all because I think it’s impossible,” he said.

“But they all have one thing in common, which is that they’re Sundre strong. They’re scrappers, they fight for what they believe in, and that’s the same thing that Myron Thompson represented. And his name on this hospital represents all of those people, including Dr. Irvine, and all of their hard work and their fight for this community.”

Asked why the word ‘hospital’ was removed from the facility’s official name, he said, “I think it’s always been called the Sundre Health Care Centre, though. I think that was always it’s official name.”

While the MLA said several people within the community had suggested the change, Nixon added he approached the premier to pitch the idea.

“I came to him and suggested this because I want to continue to make sure that Sundre’s hospital is secure, and has its place on the map.”

With regards to the timing of the announcement, Nixon said the proposal had been discussed about a year ago, but that the pandemic ended up delaying the process.

“It would have been done sooner,” he said.  

Sharing a few parting thoughts, he added, “Myron Thompson represents the fighting spirit that’s in every person in this community’s blood, and the fighting spirit that took to build this hospital. With his name on it now, I think it really pays a tribute to all of those who have fought for the last five decades to be able to make sure we have this great facility.”

Shandro said during an interview the cost of replacing the signage would be covered by a $150,000 grant to Alberta Health Services from the health ministry.

“That’s going to include the new signage, but there are other ancillary things that are going to be coming out of that grant as well,” he said, without further elaborating.

The hospital was originally built in 1968, with a 50th anniversary observed in 2018

“It will continue to operate as the hospital for Sundre and area, with 24-hour emergency services, 14 acute-care beds and 40 continuing care beds,” reads a portion of a provincial government press release.