Thursday, 19 June 2008

Health Care in Crowsnest Pass, Deloitte Report

The release of the Deloitte report and comments by the Minister of Health a couple of weeks ago regarding the delivery of health care in rural Alberta caused quite a stir here in Crowsnest Pass as well as across the province. There were recommendations in the report to turn some rural hospitals into clinics. Effectively closing those hospitals. Looking through the Deloitte study on the Chinook Health Region (which the province has disbanded) it is seen that while there are some concerns regarding the delivery of health care here, there are no recommendations to change the status of our hospital.

The report projects a population increase to 12,000 people and points out some areas of concern. Future staffing seems to be the biggest problem, with some doctors reaching retirement. It also points out that there is an opportunity to increase surgical volumes. Recruitment of physicians was the responsibility of the now defunct health board. Where that responsibility now lies is unclear. It is very clear however that we (as a community and municipality) need to protect the future of our hospital. As such we may have a role to play in the recruitment of the physicians (and other staff) needed to properly staff our hospital.

An ad hoc committee was set up last year by concerned citizens to deal with the problems in the delivery of health services here in the Pass. Should that committee be looking into the recruitment problem? Are they the right vehicle to engage our current medical personnel in finding solutions? What should the municipality be doing? Is it time we thought about incentives to attract the needed doctors? The best start, I am sure, is to reactivate that adhoc committee.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Crowsnest Pass Relay for Life

One has to admire people's commitment to causes they feel passionate about. Last night the crusade to end cancer manifested itself , here, in the marathon walk called Relay for Life. Relay teams garnered monetary pledges for their commitment to walk in relays through out the night and what a night they had. Cold, rain, lightning, and even hail insured no team member had an "easy walk in the park". No matter what the night threw at them, though, they continued all night long to meet their fund raising goal. They and all the volunteers needed to facilitate the event deserve all of our thanks.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Province To Close Rural Hospitals?

It appears the provincial government is getting prepared to close hospitals in rural Alberta as the Calgary Herald reported yesterday. They are looking at turning them into long term care facilities and walk in clinics. Shawn Patience, mayor of Fort Macleod, is completely correct when he stated for the article, "If they're looking at closing more rural hospitals, that's not the way to provide proper health care in the province of Alberta". Fort Macleod lost their hospital in spite of the fact the town was home to then cabinet minister, Dave Coutts. Mayor Patience knows the negative effect a hospital closure has on our small communities.

One of our greatest assets here in Crowsnest Pass, as in other smaller towns, is our hospital. We can ill afford to lose it. Now, nothing in the article stated that our hospital was on the chopping block but I don't believe we can sit back and wait to see what the province's plans are before we act in the best interests of our community ensuring the continuing operation of our hospital as a hospital. Neither does our mayor. Right after reading the article yesterday afternoon, Dr. Irwin began his lobbying efforts on behalf of our hospital. Individual lobbying is a great start but I don't believe we can count on that alone. We have seen what happened in Dave Coutts' home town.

As this short sighted direction in health care affects all people in small town Alberta it is going to require a province wide effort to force the provincial government to reconsider what they are about to do in rural Alberta. Each and every town in this province is going to have to stand side by side in opposition to this regressive proposal. Each PC constituency association had better be exploring their options as they relate to getting their parties' elected officials on track with the needs of rural Alberta. Any action is going to have start quickly to insure the health and safety of rural Albertans.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Turtle and More

Council did come up with a land use bylaw regarding the area that could be affected by a potential second slide of Turtle mountain. The bylaw puts the area in direct control of council and allows homes to be rebuilt and repaired. The bylaw also allows for the building of garages, garden sheds and similar structures that do not add to the density of the area. While the bylaw allows residents of the area to make application for a new home to be built (according to zoning in place in November of 2007) it does not allow for subdivision. The bylaw that was finally passed was based on a collaborative effort of affected residents and council.

Pictured is the south peak of Turtle that the AEUB tells us will fall some day. AEUB has sophisticated monitoring equipment on the mountain and tell us they will be able to give us 4 weeks advance notice of a slide, unless such slide is triggered by an earthquake. Fortunately we are not prone to earth quakes here in Crowsnest Pass (another good reason to live in the Pass) so it seems unlikely a quake will trigger a second slide of this mountain.

It has been awhile since I have posted anything here so I will report belatedly on few happenings of the past couple of months. Council did finally pass a budget late in April, including the Crowsnest Centre's budget request, and set a mil rate of just below 8 with an eleven percent tax increase. While the centre's budget passed the majority of council is still pursuing the closure of the facility. As a result the people started a petition requesting a plebiscite on a bylaw that would ensure the centre be used for the provision of municipal services and an educational facility. The petition has acquired the signatures needed and administration is in the process of verifying signatures. The petition will likely be presented to council at our next regular meeting.
Council does not appear to be wholly supportive of the idea of the transfer of development credits but seems to support the idea of using money coming from the development of potentially obtainable land from ASRD to protect land that is significantly more important for wildlife habitat.

Mayor John Irwin, our CAO Gord Lundy, and I attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention held in Quebec City this year. Much of the talk and plenary sessions this year revolved around funding for infrastructure, the infrastructure deficit of 123 billion dollars and who should best fund the cost of upgrading and repairs. We heard good speeches regarding this issue from Jack Layton and Stephane Dion. Unfortunately the Prime Minister did not attend this year's FCM, sending instead his minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to speak for his party. Jack Layton and Dion both did a good job of handling questions from the assembled municipal leaders but the minister responsible for infrastructure, Lawrence Cannon, refused to answer questions from the floor. Of course one of the benefits of attending these conventions is the opportunity to get some one on one time with people with influence as is pictured here. John putting our communities interests forward to the Honourable Ray Danyluk, Alberta's Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Finally those of you who watch blogs about municipal interests may recognize this hard working councillor from Grande Prairie discussing municipal problems with a colleague as he is waiting to hear Stephan Dion speak.