Alberta's Health Minister, Adriana LaGrange was in Airdrie on Friday afternoon as part of the province's engagement sessions on re-focusing healthcare. A large number of members of the public came to Airdrie's Town and Country Centre for the session. 

The sessions are meant to facilitate discussions with front-line workers, patients and caregivers about the challenges that exist within the system as well as address questions about the planned restructuring. Although there was no public question and answer period that addressed Airdrie-centric concerns, a portion of the presentation was dedicated to an overview of the changes that the government is hoping to implement in healthcare.

The second portion of the engagement session, which was not open to the media, was dedicated to a series of break-out groups which discussed the challenges in healthcare amongst the stakeholders. 

"I know that there is great wisdom, knowledge and expertise sitting around these tables and too often we don't listen to what you have to say, or take it seriously or have the ability to utilize the information that that you have," Minister LaGrange said. "This is what this is about. We want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. So, today please let us know what that is."

The public presentation centred around the previously announced restructuring of the healthcare system. While Alberta Health Services is said to be the major player in the healthcare system in the province, it has been underlined that there are challenges including, a lack of defined accountabilities and focus on other key areas outside of hospitals.

"Whether it's primary care, continuing care, mental health or addiction, [we're] finding that those services are always aren't well coordinated. People aren't getting access to care outside of a hospital. In turn, the hospitals face a lot of pressure," an Assistant Deputy Minister of the system, refocusing division in Alberta Health stated.

Hence, in the fall of 2023, the province announced the formation of the four provincial organizations. These include acute care, primary care, continuing care, as well as mental health and addictions.

"The four organizations will have distinct leadership. They'll all have leaders that will be focused on their particular sector. They'll be expected to work with other organizations, and they'll have accountability for their budgets."

The acute care organization will be tasked with the delivery of hospital care, urgent care centres, cancer care, clinical operations, surgeries and emergency medical services. The organization will also have to strive for shorter wait times for emergency departments and surgeries, lowering emergency medical services response time, as well as higher quality care across the province and enhancing access to care in rural areas. 

The primary care organization will coordinate primary health care services and provide transparent provincial oversight. Other tasks will include, providing timely access to primary care services, as well as supporting an integrated team of health professionals, including family physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists, that has appropriate access to patient health information.

The continuing care organization will provide Albertans with the health, personal care and accommodation services they need to support their independence and quality of life, including rehabilitative or restorative care.

"These services and supports may be provided in different settings, including individuals’ homes, continuing care homes, supportive living accommodations and adult day programs."

Lastly, the mental health and addiction organization will begin to oversee the mental health and addiction system, including managing funding.

"This organization will be responsible for the delivery of services currently provided by AHS. It will continue to focus on recovery-oriented care for Albertans, delivering services that span prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery supports."

According to a timeline presented during the presentation, currently, the province is facilitating public engagement sessions, in which Airdrie was the 12th stop, with 55 more sessions planned in the next several weeks. By Spring 2024, there will be advisory councils formed as well as the continuing care and mental health and addictions organization, while by fall 2024, the acute care and primary care organizations will be established. 

It was underlined that Alberta Health Services will continue as a hospital delivery organization.

Other members of government who were in attendance included Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Airdrie-East, Angela Pitt and MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane, Peter Guthrie. Multiple Airdrie city councillors were also in attendance along with Airdrie Mayor, Peter Brown. 

Additional sessions have been scheduled in the coming weeks including a session in Innisfail, Camrose, Sylvan Lake, as well as three more in Calgary. Those interested in attending are asked to register online

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