Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke has been selected by incoming Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel to head up a task force to look at the ways that rural Alberta offers health services.
In an announcement earlier this week, Mandel said, “The premier has been clear, we need to do more listening and less talking when it comes to health care. We need to listen to and work with our rural partners when delivering health care in their area.”
Starke said in an interview with the Lloydminster Source the day of the announcement, that he has been tasked with leading a group of individuals that will be travelling around the province, and talking with people in small communities and seeing what the challenges are in those areas when it comes to remote health care.
“Hopefully, we will come up with some solutions to some of the challenges we hear when travelling across the province,” he said.
Starke said that after writing an email on rural health to the new health minister, Starke was contacted by Mandel’s office and offered the job.
“I had sent him a long email about some of my observations on some of the frustrations I have had dealing with health care in rural areas,” Starke said. “And about 10 minutes after hitting the send button, I got a call from Minister Mandel and he hadn’t seen my email yet, and we talked about the rural health care action plan.”
Starke said that he and Mandel spoke at length on what some of those issues are.
“There are a number of areas that the health minister wants us to look at, including access to health care in remote areas, specialists and access to those specialists,” Starke said.
Starke said that one area that he will be looking at will be recruitment of professionals in remote areas of the province.
“I know that was a challenge from when I was practicing in my veterinary office. I would speak to my colleagues at the time, and we know that it’s a challenge for all areas in the province.
“We hope to come up with strategies that are effective and have strategies in place to have trained professionals in remote areas of the province.”
While new to the position, and the task force, Starke couldn’t speculate where the group was going to be stopping over the next 90 days.
“I can’t say right now where the task force will be stopping yet, so I don’t want to say Lloydminster will or will not be on the list of places to stop,” he said.
Prentice said in the news conference that he is hoping to have the report in place in 90 days.
While Starke said that is a tight time line, he thinks it can be accomplished.
“It’s certainly an aggressive time frame, and we will do everything we can to get the information complied and put together in that time frame,” he said.
“My feelings (on task forces) are you set a target to get the work done, you accomplish it. But, I also believe that if more information is required and getting that information complied, and in a format where it is useful and in a way that the information is more applicable, it’s better to take that time to make a quality project.”
In the short time that Starke has been heading the task force, he has already received feedback from some rural areas about the health-care service.
The 90-day time line would put the report out at the end of December.
Starke will be leading a team of three professionals with Dr. Allan Garbutt, the past president of the Alberta Medical Association; Bonnie Sansregret chair of the Consort and District Medical Centre Society and Dr. Shannon Spenceley, president of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).