Better cardiac care not coming 'any time soon' to central Alberta, health minister says
CBC News investigation found heart attack death rates much higher in Red Deer than Calgary or Edmonton
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says she's open to the idea of expanding cardiac services in Red Deer, but cautioned that it won't happen any time soon.
"This is something that's still in the conversation phases and the research phases and AHS is working on a program for all Albertans throughout the province," Hoffman told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.
"So this isn't something that's going to be announced any time soon unfortunately," she added.
Questions are being raised about why health officials did not address concerns about heart attack mortality rates in central Alberta sooner, after a CBC News investigation found that cardiac death rates are much higher in that part of the province than they are in the bigger centres.
Doctors in Red Deer believe they could save more than 30 lives a year if they didn't have to transfer patients out for treatment at cardiac catheterization labs in Calgary and Edmonton.
Drew Barnes, the Wildrose health critic, says he's "absolutely shocked."
"Shocked that Alberta, with our prosperity, with our oil and gas wealth, that we do not have the best health care in all of Canada for all Albertans, not just those in big centres."
He says a cardiac catheterization lab at Red Deer Regional Hospital is long overdue.
"We're all taxed the same, we should be treated the same," Barnes told CBC News.
An Alberta Health Services (AHS) document written in December 2014 — and recently obtained by CBC News — examined the need for more cardiac services in central Alberta.
People in that part of the province had a 70 per cent higher death rate after a heart attack than people in Calgary between 2007 and 2010, it revealed.
A more recent AHS performance report shows that as recently as last year (2014-15), heart attack patients in central Alberta had a 47-per cent higher mortality rate than people in Calgary.
Liberal Leader David Swann says it doesn't look like the concerns about heart attack mortality rates in central Alberta have been addressed in a timely manner.
"When we see this kind of inequity … there needs to be some action taken," Swann said.
He adds, however, that decisions like these should be evidence-based.
"If there is a higher mortality rate in Red Deer, what are the factors contributing to that? Let's make sure they have the resources they need to make sure we are saving lives and preventing the problems as well as we can," he said.
"Making sure the EMS team and the physicians there are doing the same thing as in the big cities and making sure that people have timely access to the [catheterization] lab or other issues that may help diagnose and treat more effectively these folks with heart disease."
Alberta Health Services says it's working on a plan to build the lab and should know by spring when that will happen.
With files from Jennifer Lee and the Calgary Eyeopener