Calgary

Sylvan Lake to get expanded health care after years of lobbying

More than four years after a man collapsed outside a closed Sylvan Lake clinic and died, the central Alberta town is getting expanded health-care services.

$2M renovation to health centre begins in spring, improved service starts in 2018

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announces $2 million for expanded health care in Sylvan Lake, Alta. (CBC)

More than four years after a man collapsed outside a closed Sylvan Lake clinic and died, the central Alberta town is getting expanded health-care services.

"Patients will be able to be treated right here in Sylvan Lake," said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, as she announced Monday that the provincial government would contribute $2 million to renovate the existing health centre, followed by $2 million every year to operate it starting in 2018.

The expanded services — which will see the town have access to up to 16 hours of care per day, seven days a week —  will operate out of the existing Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre.

It will cover urgent care for non-life threatening conditions, such as basic fractures, broken bones and stitches, along with the related laboratory and diagnostic imaging services.

Currently, clinic hours vary during the week in the town of around 25,000 residents, and are closed on Sunday.

"Even if an incident occurs outside regular clinic hours, even if it's in the evening or a Saturday or Sunday, you won't have to get on the highway," Hoffman said.

Years of lobbying pay off

Residents and physicians in the town have been advocating for an urgent care facility since 2012.

In January that year, more than 500 people attended the first town hall meeting on the issue. 

Then in August 2012, 49-year-old Brent Boychuk fell ill while he was building a house in the town, about 25 kilometres west of Red Deer.

His daughter Brianne took him to two clinics in Sylvan Lake. The first was closed because it was a Saturday afternoon. A second clinic was also closed because the doctor was out of town.

That's when Boychuk collapsed. Brianne performed CPR and called 911, but her father was dead by the time paramedics got him to Red Deer.

Over the past four years, the town has worked with Alberta Health Services and the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network to try to bring an urgent care clinic to the area.

The former Progressive Conservative government promised Sylvan Lake such a centre in March 2015, but that hope was dashed following the provincial election a few months later.

The town has also held letter-writing campaigns and hosted fundraising events in support of the cause. 

"This community has come together probably like no other behind this cause of filling a service gap that existed," said Sylvan Lake family physician, Dr. Brad Bahler.

Last summer, a joint task force was created to explore how to best deliver enhanced health care, as well as lab and diagnostic services, to the region.

"[We'll be] continuing to collaborate with the community, local physicians and the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network to ensure that these services are delivered in a coordinated way with the services that already exist here," said Dr. Ted Braun, the interim vice president and medical director for central and southern Alberta.

now