Minister of Health Tyler Shandro made a stop in Ponoka on Thursday, July 22, for a tour of the “world-class” Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.
Shandro says the visit was at the urging of Minster of Culture, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, so he came to Ponoka as part of his summer tour of the province.
Shandro says his father worked at the centre early on in his career.
“(The Centennial Centre) means something to our family as well,” he said.
Shandro says he was entirely impressed by the modern facility throughout the tour.
“This is an absolute jewel that is really underappreciated by the rest of the province,” said Shandro in an interview with Ponoka News after the tour.
“All of Alberta should be proud and impressed by what they have developed here.”
Shandro was shown around the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury and was told a few patient outcome success stories and shown some of their treatment processes.
Patients from all over Canada come to the Centennial Centre to be treated, he says.
Their adult psychiatry and geriatric facilities are “head-and-shoulders above” what other facilities currently offer, he said.
“This is world-class.”
Shandro says one request mentioned to him during the tour was that the Centennial Centre would really like to develop an emergency room so they’d be better equipped to see walk-in patients. Currently, most of their patients come to them on a referral basis.
His other stops in the central zone included Drayton Valley, Wetaskiwin and Red Deer. The previous week, he was touring in the south zone.
Shandro says he’s touring the province because after 16 months of pandemic restrictions when travel wasn’t recommended, that it’s nice to get out again and see health facilities and staff in person.
“I’m really happy to be in Stage 3 and head out on the road,” he said.
Shandro says COVID-19 is “here to stay,” and the province is beginning to shift from a pandemic response to an endemic response.
‘Endemic’ means something that is regularly found in a certain place or community.
We’ll still have COVID-19 as a communicable disease, but severe outcomes are preventable through vaccination and we don’t need public health measures anymore, he says.
After 65 per cent of Albertans have received two doses of a COVID-19 disease, the virus will be considered like any other communicable disease in communities.
Countries that haven’t had the same uptake in vaccines as Alberta, such as the U.K. and Australia, are now grappling with variants or another wave of COVID-19, says Shandro.
Shandro gave his condolences for the Centennial Centre staff member who recently passed away.
Bailey Nicole Flick, 26, died suddenly on July 12, 2021. She had just completed her orientation as a nurse at the Centennial Centre (rockyfuneralhome.ca).
“That’s a horrific loss to her loved ones and co-workers. My condolences to all of them,” said Shandro.