By Jamie Rieger
The provincial government is putting together a review panel that will look at health care delivery in rural communities, premier Jim Prentice’s office announced last week.
“I learned in my travels across Alberta this summer that many rural communities are seriously concerned about health care delivery. So I have asked MLA Richard Starke (Vefrmilion-Lloydminster) to chair a review panel into the delivery of health care in underserviced rural and remote areas,” said Prentice.
The review panel will be comprised of health care experts and stakeholders, who will identify communities that require attention. The panel will also review existing services and facilities and will be in consultation with regional health advisory councils, including the Palliser Triangle Health Advisory Council that services southeast Alberta.
The panel will focus on timely access to appropriate health care, evaluation of specialist services, and optimizing the use of existing health facilities, ensuring patient safety, and quality services. They will also ensure communities are engaged in health service planning and policy development.
Recruitment and retention of health personnel will also be a focuse; as will ensuring there is a link between health services and rural economic development.
“We know there are challenges with health care delivery in rural and remote areas. We need to look at what we currently have and ensure those resources are being used practically and in the best way possible – in consultation with communities,” said Stark.
The rural communities will be split into three categories according to population size: 1,250 people or less, between 1,250 and 2,500, and more than 2,500.
The review panel is expected to report to Minister of Health, Stephen Mandel with their findings in 90 days.