Alberta's rural health-care needs to undergo review

Premier Jim Prentice has announced a review of health care in rural Alberta.

Wildrose Party believes review is just a stalling tactic

Jim Prentice has a laugh with former Edmonton mayor and newly-appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel after being sworn-in as Alberta's 16th premier. The new team announced a review of rural health care Tuesday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Premier Jim Prentice has announced a review of health care in rural Alberta.

Prentice says the focus will be on timely access to health care, an evaluation of specialist services in rural areas and recruiting health professionals.

Speaking in at a hospital in Olds, which is located just north of Calgary, Alberta's new premier said on Tuesday he expects an initial review will be back within 90 days. It will cover communities with less than 1,250 people.

The panel will also look at rural centres between 1,250 and 2,500, and more than 2,500. 

"People certainly can see that I have been on the job for six days, as has Minister Mandel," said Prentice. "We're not the kind of people that accumulate studies on shelves. I think that's very obvious to Albertans, and I think people are finding it refreshing."

Panel members

  • Dr. Allan Garbutt: Crowsnest Pass physician.
  • Bonnie Sansregret: Chair of the Consort and District Medical Centre Society.
  • Dr. Shannon Spenceley: President of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA). 

The review will be done by health-care experts and stakeholders, and include local input.

Prentice says he heard from Albertans over the summer that they expect changes, and they'll see them once he gets this report.

But the Wildrose Party is dismissing Prentice's announcement.

Opposition health critic Heather Forsyth says the government already knows exactly what changes are needed to improve rural health care and this study is just a stalling tactic.

"The problems facing our health-care system in the different parts of rural Alberta are obvious: more rural physicians, more investment in primary care, scrapping the divorce by nursing home policy, fixing ambulance wait times and more decentralized decision making,” Forsyth said in a release.

“There has been no shortage of reports, reviews and studies. We don’t need 90 days to watch more government studies gather dust on the shelf. We need action.”


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