In a few months' time, in the summer, renovations will begin at Airdrie's Urgent Care Centre, which when completed will among other things increase treatment room sizes with a capacity of up to six rooms, including a new trauma room, as well as a negative air room.

Michelle Bates, the Executive Director of the Airdrie Health Foundation said that the renovations will total approximately $8.4 million, though she added that this money was not in the current capital budget announced by the province; these funds had been allocated earlier on.

"[It] will help extend their current urgent care by almost 60 per cent. The renovations will provide a new EMS [Emergency Medical Services] area in the department, improve patient sightlines, provide new and appropriate sized storage areas, new washrooms and double the size of waiting rooms, double the number of triage stations; and increase privacy improvement for patients and staff flow."

However, one of the more personal projects that will be undertaken during the renovations is the renovation to the mental health room, Lane's room - named after Bates' late son. The idea was to make the room more comforting and homey and to try and also destigmatize mental health crises for everyone.

The renovation of Lane's room is not included in the budget and has instead been funded by the Airdrie Health Foundation alongside funds that were raised by W.H. Croxford High School's Movement for Mental Health event fundraiser. The funds raised will go to decorating the inside of the room. 

Bates said that while the heartbreak over her son's passing is still felt on a very deep level, the work that she and the Airdrie Health Foundation is all the more determined.

"As a mom - our experience [was that] we didn't have the care that we needed when we needed it. We're working really hard to get the care that we need here in Airdrie," Bates said. "So hopefully [when] someone else presents at the health center - whether it's for public health, mental health, urgent care, wound care; whatever they're coming there, they don't ever have to think, 'I wish we had that here.' That's what we're working for."

Bates said the renovations are a 'plus', but realistically, in her view, and that of many of the city's residents, there is an absolute need for a new healthcare facility.

"We just simply need a new facility; that's what we need. We need a new facility that will encompass more clinics, more diagnostics: an MRI, CT scan[s], a chemotherapy clinic, dialysis," she said. "There's a lot more things that we need here. This renovation, in lieu of all of that other stuff, is something that we need. But truly, we need a new facility for a population this size."

Bates said while there seems to be trepidation in discussing a facility that would be termed a 'hospital', she said that it doesn't matter what the name is, what matters is that it can sustainably be able to serve the healthcare needs of the city. She underlined that it's also not just Airdronians that use Airdrie's Urgent Care Centre, it's all members of outlying communities that are in close proximity to Airdrie.

She explained that a resident of Calgary who might visit the Peter Lougheed Centre will have continuous and follow-up care once they are discharged and that continuity of care is not possible in Airdrie at the moment.

"If you're that same patient and come to Airdrie, you only now have access to that doctor once a month. The care does not transfer to Airdrie. That's why we need it in Airdrie - because we don't see that."

Bates concluded that as the fifth largest city in Alberta, with close to 80,000 people calling Airdrie home, access to healthcare should not be limited for residents. 

The current provincial budget which was announced some months allocated $3 million over the next three years for the planning of the North Calgary/Airdrie Regional Health Centre. 

Earlier this month, in a campaign promise the Alberta NDP pledged that they would allocate a total of $23 million over the next three years for the initial planning and design of a new health center in North Calgary/Airdrie Regional Health Centre.

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