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Willow Creek council discusses rural health care with MLA

roger reid
Roger Reid

MD of Willow Creek council has concerns about funding for a local transportation society, medical first response units, and physician recruitment and retention.

Council recently expressed those concerns to the MLA for Livingstone-Macleod.

MLA Roger Reid appeared as a delegation at council’s Aug. 12 meeting.

Reeve Maryanne Sandberg worked through a list of health care issues.

Transportation society

The Claresholm and District Transportation Society, which transports seniors and people with disabilities to medical appointments, has had challenges with funding.

It has been used in the past for transferring patients to free ambulances from this work, and would like to do more.

Reid said he has met twice with the society and realizes it needs operating funding, not capital funding.

Reid supports the society being utilized for transfers instead of ambulances, and will continue to have discussions with Alberta Health.

First response units

Sandberg asked about the medical response units, which are all but ambulances in name.

With changes in government regulations Sandberg asked if the units will now be utilized as they were initially intended.

“I’m happy to work with you to get that in front of the right people and get that fixed,” Reid said.

Physician recruitment, retention

Sandberg said there are concerns over the Claresholm area now needing two doctors.

Reid said he shares those concerns, noting that he lives in Claresholm but his family doctor is in Calgary because he cannot see one in Claresholm.

Reid said he is trying to help the ministry of health understand rural medicine, and how important having a full contingency of doctors is.

However, Reid pointed out that physician compensation is a $5.4-billion line item in the provincial budget.

That translates to 10 per cent of the entire budget paying less than one per cent of the population, that is the 11,000 doctors in Alberta.

“We’ve got to find a compensation model that is sustainable,” Reid said.

“There is a strong voice for rural health in Edmonton,” Reid added.

Reid also noted if the province does not get its spending under control, rural health care will be the first casualty.

Coun. Glen Alm cautioned Reid that if an area loses doctors, then it can lose its hospital, and that creates an even bigger reliance on ambulances.

Reid acknowledged that.

Emergency dispatch

Coun. Ian Sundquist asked about the closure of emergency dispatch in Lethbridge and its consolidation with the province-wide system.

Sundquist suggested the government get back to smaller dispatch centres, adding he has real concerns over Lethbridge because of the loss of local knowledge of the service area.

Sundquist said the province should be looking at hacking up the big system into smaller centres not the other way around.

Reid agreed, noting he has experienced difficulties personally getting a patient transported by ambulance literally across the street to the hospital.

Reid said he would be talking to Alberta Health the following Monday.

“This is another one we’ll be going to the mat for in the fall,” Reid said.