Calgary

Red Deer mayor calls for quicker action on cardiac cath lab for central Alberta

The mayor of Red Deer is adding her voice to growing calls on the province to provide life-saving treatment for heart attack patients in central Alberta. That's after a report showed that cardiac death rates are up to 70 per cent higher in central Alberta than they are in Calgary or Edmonton.

CBC News investigation found heart attack death rates much higher in Red Deer than Calgary or Edmonton

An AHS document from December 2014 reveals people in central Alberta had a 70 per cent higher death rate after a heart attack than people in Calgary between 2007 and 2010. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters)

The mayor of Red Deer is adding her voice to growing calls on the province to provide life-saving treatment for heart attack patients in central Alberta.

That's after an Alberta Health Services (AHS) report obtained by CBC News showed that cardiac death rates are up to 70 per cent higher in central Alberta than they are in Calgary or Edmonton.

"Obviously it's concerning," Mayor Tara Veer told CBC News on Tuesday.

Veer says the Red Deer Regional Hospital serves up to 350,000 people in central Alberta, and it needs a cardiac catheterization ("cath") lab so treatment can be provided on site, instead of having to transport patients to Alberta's two major cities.

"The longer it takes, obviously it has more life-and-death impact for those who need the services," she said.

Having a cath lab would save roughly 32 lives every year, according to doctors in Red Deer.

$10M already raised

Robert Bilton, chair of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Foundation, says some 1,000 people require cardiac catherization every year. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Foundation has already raised $10 million in donations to fund the construction and startup costs.

"The actual cath lab in Red Deer is totally financially viable ... Really, this is just a matter of Red Deer not having the lobby or the voice to be able to get these services," said Robert Bilton, chair of the foundation.

AHS could probably even save money if they built the lab, Bilton said, saving around $1.5 million in transportation costs alone every year.

While AHS says a plan, including a cardiac cath lab, is in the works, the health minister has made it clear the service won't be in place any time soon.

Tough choices

Dr. Allan Garbutt, past president of the Alberta Medical Association, says deciding which communities should get a cardiac cath lab is a complex issue for AHS.

"Somebody in AHS has to sit down and say, 'This is what everybody would like. This is what everybody needs. This is how many dollars we have,'" he told Alberta at Noon on Tuesday.

"After you fill the needs, then you look at the wants, and try and figure out who has got the best case for making those choices," he added.

It's estimated a cath lab would cost about $5 to $10 million to build, and $3.1 to $3.3 million in annual operating costs.

"You're committing to millions of dollars, every year, forever," Garbutt said.

Then there's the question of cardiac care for other communities such as Grande Prairie or Fort McMurray, where it takes five hours to transport patients to major centres, and at a much higher cost per person.

"We can't possibly provide everything everywhere for everybody," Garbutt said.

With files from Jennifer Lee and Alberta at Noon

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now