Health advocates concerned about pause in Airdrie urgent care expansion

Health advocates who heard about the postponement say they’ve heard the idea is to introduce a publicly funded, privately delivered service model.

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Questions are brewing in Airdrie after the Alberta government confirmed an $8.4 million plan to expand the city’s main health-care center has been put on hold so the province can consider a third-party proposal that could change the model. of service provision of the center.

While little has been revealed about the proposal, which involves a local doctor and a developer, health advocates who learned of the postponement say they have heard the idea is to introduce a publicly funded service and delivery model. private.

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Michelle Bates, executive director of the Airdrie Health Foundation, said she was informed on Jan. 11 that the $8.4 million expansion of the Airdrie Community Health Center was being postponed so the province could evaluate a new joint proposal involving One Health Associate Medical. and Qualico Communities.

“We have been working very hard to achieve better health care and access to health care in Airdrie, from advocating for 24-hour health care to fundraising for different equipment and programs and even education for staff,” Bates said.

“We have always been pushing for new facilities to be built because that is what is needed. “We would like to see it in hospital form, but in the absence of that, we really needed this renovation, more than the government could know.”

With more than 80,000 residents, Airdrie is the largest municipality in Alberta that does not have its own hospital. The Airdrie Community Health Center is the city’s main public health care center and offers a variety of services including a 24-hour urgent care center, x-rays and some laboratory tests.

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The center sees more than 40,000 patients a year, a quarter of whom come from Calgary, according to Bates. He said the facility does not adequately serve the region’s growing population and has long been in need of an expansion.

The Alberta government announced $8.4 million to renovate the center in 2023. Plans included increasing the size of the treatment rooms to expand patient capacity, as well as doubling the size of the waiting room and areas. of classification.

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But those updates are now on pause while the province evaluates a joint proposal from developer Qualico Communities and Airdrie physician Dr. Julian Kyne of One Health Associate Medical.

According to Bates, the proposal has raised many questions among Airdrie residents.

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“We don’t have a lot of information and we don’t think a lot of information has been released,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate.”

‘We have to explore this’: MLA

A statement from the Ministry of Health confirmed that the expansion of the center is on hold while the province explores a new proposal.

“The Alberta government remains committed to this publicly funded capital project and ensuring that, once operational, the site provides publicly funded health services,” said Andrea Smith, spokesperson for Health Minister Adriana LaGrange. .

“The delivery of health services in Airdrie is a priority and the Alberta government will ensure that any health projects in the community provide high-quality care.”

While some have raised the alarm about the renewal postponement, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt argued those concerns have been overblown. She said the province owes it to Airdrie residents to explore what could become a better health-care delivery model.

Pitt said he can’t speak to the details of the Qualico/One Health proposal, but the province “would be remiss” if it didn’t at least explore the idea.

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“While I understand it is very shocking to some, and perhaps very frustrating, to see this renovation temporarily on hold, at the end of the day, we could be getting better value for taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“I think if there is a bit of a (delay) as a consequence, we have to explore this.”

Angela Pitt
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt. Ian Kucerak/Postmedia Archive

‘We have so many questions’: Advocates call for transparency

But other health care advocates disagree, saying the Airdrie Health Center expansion should go ahead as planned.

On Tuesday, Friends of Medicare, an Edmonton-based organization that advocates for universal health care, criticized the province for stopping the renewal without any formal announcement or explanation.

The organization’s chief executive, Chris Galloway, said they are concerned about the lack of transparency from the government, as well as the proposal to provide publicly funded private services.

“We have so many questions because the government hasn’t said what’s happening,” he said.

“If they are looking at other options, privatization schemes, they should tell people what they are looking for and people in the community and elsewhere can talk about whether that is really a good plan or not.”

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Airdrie doctor proposes new ‘campus’, says renovations not enough

The Airdrie doctor behind the joint proposal, Julian Kyne, said he has been involved in healthcare in the town for more than 35 years.

Kyne said he and others were “dismayed” when they learned the province planned to spend millions of dollars to renovate the Airdrie Community Health Centre, adding that the facility was never designed to house a health care center in the first place. urgency.

Renovating it “would not meet” Airdrie’s growing health needs, he said, adding that what he and Qualico are proposing is to build a new “campus” that combines primary and urgent care services.

“We think it’s pretty innovative and addresses a number of concerns facing not just Airdrie, but the entire province and nationally,” he said.

Although it’s not yet on paper, Kyne said he will take the finished proposal to Alberta Health in the coming weeks to review its merits.

He added that his proposal would include a budget and timeline similar to the province’s original plan to renovate the health centre.

“I think it will be a great help to the community and the citizens of Airdrie,” he said. “I can’t wait to make announcements or be able to participate publicly, obviously pending approval from Alberta Health.”

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