Wildrose wants answers on rural health review

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January 29, 2015 9:19 AM

MLA Starke anticipates mid-March completion

The official Opposition in Alberta is demanding that the government release its report on rural health in the province of Alberta.

Wildrose infrastructure critic Pat Stier spoke with the Lloydminster Source earlier this week, and said that the government promised to table the report within 90 days of the start.

“Frankly, what I’m looking for right now is the report,” Stier said. “It was due to come out in December.”

Stier said that he has been hearing a lot of concern about the lack of proper response time and doctors.

“So much so that it’s been an overriding problem for many years,” he said.

Premier Jim Prentice and Minister of Health Stephen Mandel tasked Vermilion- Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke with spearheading the rural health review.

“It’s important that we move on and start working to fix that,” Stier said.

Stier said that he wants to know why it hasn’t been tabled yet.

“I want to know if it has anything to do with what’s going on in the political climate right now,” he added.

“Has the minister (of health) decided not to release the report because there might be something dramatic in it?”

Starke told the Lloydminster Source that there is a practical reason why the province hasn’t released the report yet.

“It’s currently only on Phase 1,” Starke said. “Phase 1 only gives communities up to 1,250 people.”

He added that phase of the report is currently in the hands Mandel.

Starke said that review is not done, or complete yet to release.

“The premier told everyone that he would give 90 days to conduct the review,” Starke said, but added the premier also wanted a comprehensive review on rural health.

“We envisioned this report in three phases, the first with the smaller communities and then moving up,” he said.

Earlier this month, Starke said that he and the committee tasked to review rural health, met with stakeholders in the province, as well as MLAs.

“In order to achieve the comprehensiveness that the premier wants and in order to have input from all the communities that are considered rural, we are continuing with (our review),” Starke said.

As to when the final report is expected to be in the hands of the premier and health minister, Starke said the time frame could be somewhere in the middle of March.

“I hope by mid-march,“he said. “But that’s only contingent on reviews and consultations, which are scheduled from next Wednesday to the middle of February.”

Seventy-nine communities are scheduled to be visited, according Starke.

“We don’t want the input to be influenced by any report released,” Starke said. “If we had released the Phase 1 report already, my concern would be that some of the communities would either reject or accept Phase 1 findings, without giving their own unique input.”

Starke took a shot at the Wildrose critic, saying that he’s appreciative of his eagerness to see the report.

“I appreciate the fact that Mr. Stier wants to see the report. I’m glad that he is. We are going to be in his part of the province in a short period of time. I’m sure that we will hear his communities’ concerns and they will be incorporated into the report,” he said.

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