Inequity of health care in central Alberta

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr's column looks at healthcare inequity.

There is solid evidence that access to health care is not equitable in Alberta.

Over the past 10 years central Alberta has not received a reasonable share of health infrastructure investment compared to Edmonton and Calgary. The Red Deer Regional Hospital (RDRH) is consistently amongst the top five busiest hospitals in the province serving over 10 per cent of Alberta’s population.

Recently a group of concerned doctors delivered a State of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Address to hundreds of concerned citizens at the Baymont Inn. Many were shocked by the report, acknowledging that there is a critical care crisis at the Hospital:

The Doctors’ report cites a 2016 document reporting per capita health spending for central region at $286, Calgary at $1,400. Edmonton at $4,000 per person. Hardly equitable. But that includes $39.6 million for the parkade that you pay for. In reality central zone only gets $160 per person.

Central Albertans were 60 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack than patients in Calgary or Edmonton because the hospital does not offer catheterization services, which includes lab testing for cardiac care.

Surgeries are routinely cancelled because there are no available beds to look after patients post-operatively.

Patients routinely wait an average of 33 hours in the emergency department because there are no beds available in the hospital. At times, the overcapacity beds are in the hallway or the tub room.

55 per cent of all surgeries performed at the RDRH are unplanned, urgent surgeries. The benchmark is that only 30 per cent of surgeries should be unplanned and 70 per cent should be scheduled. Pointing out the need for more elective or access for patients.

Program spending for illnesses involving lung, gastrointestinal, nervous system, kidney and the heart, and for conditions such as diabetes, has not kept pace with the needs of the population of central Alberta. This means that patients have to go to Calgary or Edmonton for their care

The RDRH is routinely missing the target wait times for CT and MRI Scans

The Red Deer Regional Hospital is short 114 beds and in desperate need of expansion. More than 75 per cent of patients on the “wait list” for elective surgery fall out of the window, which means they wait too long for life-changing and life-saving surgery because they do not have enough operating rooms. Doctors are asking that equitable life saving treatments be restored to the hospital.

In 2007, countless hours went in to developing a regional master plan, which called for service development in the hospital to deliver more advanced services to keep pace with expected population growth. The plan was shelved when health regions amalgamated. Then in 2014, the Red Deer Regional Master Plan was created again. At the time, the hospital was third on the list for sites needing infrastructure improvement. In 2015, an expansion needs assessment showed the desperate need for beds, operating rooms and health care programs. Sadly, the redevelopment of the Red Deer Regional Hospital was removed from Alberta Health Services Planning Document in 2016.

This is not equal representation.

Please take the time to write me and share your stories related to health care. Plan to attend a public rally being planned for June the 3rd in Red Deer.

My email address is Lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca. The office is located at #101 4892 46 Street, Lacombe,AB T4L 2B4 and the phone number is 403 782 7725. Please feel free to contact me at any of these locations.