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Alberta health minister highlights initiatives to strengthen rural healthcare

Jason Copping, Alberta Health Minister during a news conference in Wainwright on March 29, 2023. (Source: Alberta Government) Jason Copping, Alberta Health Minister during a news conference in Wainwright on March 29, 2023. (Source: Alberta Government)

Alberta's UCP government continued its post-budget tour Wednesday by holding a press conference to discuss hundreds of million dollars it has committed in an attempt to improve healthcare in rural Alberta.

“By addressing key areas of the healthcare system including pressures facing rural health care such as upgrading and modernizing facilities, Albertans can have better access to the high quality care they need where and when they need it,” said Jason Copping, Alberta Health Minister.

Copping was in Wainwright to highlight some of the initiatives the budget will fund.

It includes $105 million over three years for the Rural Health Facilities Revitalization Program.

“And this program revitalizes rural health facilities throughout the province focusing on small centres in underserved rural areas and strengthens supports in emergency departments, urgent care centres and emergency medical services,” said Copping.

“Access to health care requires access to health-care facilities that support the delivery of safe, high-quality care and meet the needs of the community,” said Andrea Thain Liptak, Senior Operating Officer for Rural Acute Care, Allied Health Primary Care and Indigenous Health for AHS Central Zone.

“Integral to meeting the needs of our communities is ensuring that as they age our facilities continue to be renovated and modernized whenever possible,” she added.

The UCP government has also included $237 million in its budget to help reduce wait times for surgery as well as expanding and modernizing operating rooms.

“Keeping facilities up to date is just one part of supporting rural health care,” said Thain Liptak.

“Without the staff and physicians needed to provide the care, the bricks and mortar don’t get us very far,” she said.

A further $250 million in provincial funding over four years is earmarked to address things like recruitment and retention programs.

“AHS continues to look for creative ways to retain and build our workforce to support our current people and by extension the patients we care for and focus on our priorities,” Thain Liptak said.

Many rural health-care facilities have had to close emergency departments or suspend some services like baby delivery.

“The big issue associated quite frankly is staff. There’s not enough staff to be able to maintain the services,” said Copping.

He couldn’t provide details but said progress is being made with recruitment to address those issues.

“I don’t have an exact date for you there but there’s targets for each one of them. And again, when I look at the targets on that we’re talking, some of them are into this spring, some of them are actually going to slide a few more months later but there’s active work being done by AHS,” Copping said. Top Stories

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