Red Deerians gather to share concerns about health care system and ways to fix it

About 140 Red Deerians who wanted to share ideas to help fix Alberta’s health care system attended a public engagement session on Thursday led by Alberta Health.

Participants were divided into groups to talk about problems with health care, offer ideas, as well as learn about the province’s plan to streamline Alberta Health Services and create different organizations to oversee acute care, primary care, continuing care, and mental health and addictions.

A participant, who spoke to the Advocate following the session, was concerned that public health was left out of the government’s new multi-organization plan.

“Public health is more than COVID and immunization. Decreasing smoking in society, that was driven by public health, same for car seats. All of that’s been left out,” she said.

At her table, there was also a lot of distrust about the impact of public engagement sessions, she said.

“I believe that change is going to happen and I am hoping that our Minister of Health will actually listen to the citizens before they make changes just for the sake of change.”

Another participant said she really appreciated the opportunity to learn about the organizations the government will develop.

“I look forward to seeing how they’re going to roll this out and those next steps for sure,” said the woman who was at a table with mostly health care workers and was pleased to hear their perspective.

“Health care is broken right now and we have to do something. Whether this is the right model, I don’t know, but I think it’s a model that’s definitely worth exploring.”

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A registered nurse said proper nurse/patient ratios are needed in hospitals which would reduce costs to the system and improve patient outcomes.

“We’re getting an increasing number of overcapacity patients that are placed in unsafe places and we do not get an increase in staff to accommodate them. We need more nurses. We need coordinated care and many of us fear that breaking down into four pillars is going to result in disjointed care,” she said.

She wasn’t surprised that the majority of people at the session were healthcare workers because many felt they were not recognized and burned out. Other issues identified at her table included a lack of specialists and not enough mental health resources in the community, especially in rural areas.

Another participant said dividing health care into four sections makes sense, but there is a danger of creating silos which prevent information sharing.

She said Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are huge systems and it would be beneficial for those with a good understanding of systems to participate in the sessions.

Another participant said he is waiting to see what happens as a result of the public consultation, which allowed for more open discussion compared to sessions he has attended in the past.

“The focus still allowed for individual input. Some of the previous (sessions), the focus was so tight nothing really came out of it and the outcome was predetermined before it even started, so why bother,” he said.

Another participant said it took a long time for her family members to get the quality health care they needed. She attended the session to share ideas.

“I want to help however I can,” she said.

Another participant said Alberta can’t leave the health care system the way it is.

“Something has to be done to fix it. Hopefully, the government, with the feedback, can get it right.”

Related:

Province wants to hear from health care workers and Albertans

So far 20 public engagement sessions have been held across the province since Jan. 23, and there are 35 more.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, who is also the MLA for Red Deer-North, told Red Deer participants that there’s been such a great response that 12 more sessions were added.

She said Albertans recognize the health care system is not working and it’s time for something different, which is what the plan to refocus health care is all about.

“We want to keep what is best about keeping one geographic health authority because there’s a lot of opportunity on procurement, on IT, and in so many other things,” LaGrange told the attendees.

“But we also want to improve the way that we’re delivering service, putting the patient at the centre of the care but also making sure that we look after our workforce.”

She encouraged everyone to provide their honest feedback.

“We want to hear the good. We want to hear the bad, and we also want to hear the ugly. And we need to hear it because if we don’t hear it, we can’t change it.”


szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com
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