(Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

(Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

MLA Rick Wilson: June update Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin

Hello again friends and neighbours.

Let me start by saying just how much I appreciate the outpouring of kindness this whole community has lavished on me and my family since the passing of my father, David Wilson. For all the flowers, phone calls, emails, cards, and personal messages of condolence, thank you. I was close with my Dad. He lived a life of service and devotion to our family, our neighbours, and our community. My family and I have been comforted with your overwhelming support at this difficult time and I am so very grateful for each and every gesture of goodwill.

Have you been to the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre lately? It seems that planning is well underway for the $5.9 million the province has designated for upgrades and renovations to the Emergency Department and Medical Device Reprocessing unit. The Wetaskiwin Health Foundation is jumping onboard with plans to raise $2.1 million to fund essential equipment enhancements for emergency care. I am so happy to share with you that this partnership in revitalization will help ensure that residents of this area will continue to receive high-quality care for many years to come.

Hospitals all across this province play such an important role in the lives of Albertans. We know that innovative solutions must be developed in order to improve some current struggles faced by our health care system – struggles like the backlog of surgeries and the resulting higher wait times experienced by Albertans. You may have heard that the province has introduced chartered surgical facilities to make sure surgical wait times fall within the timeframes recommended by medical experts. If you were wondering how these chartered surgical facilities work, I am happy to tell you that they are indeed public health care. The province pays for the procedures and the staff working there follow the same safety and professional standards as any hospital. No Albertan will be sent a bill after a procedure at a chartered surgical facility. Recently, the Alberta government partnered with Enoch Cree Nation to offer 3000 publicly funded hip and knee replacements and other joint procedures in a new state-of-the-art chartered surgical facility slated to open in 2023. This new contract alone will provide increased access to 17 per cent more hip, knee, and joint surgeries for folks in the Capital region.

Did you know that nearly one in every eight admissions at the University of Alberta Hospital is brain-related? In an effort to deliver a stronger, publicly funded health system with better access to care, Alberta’s government has recently announced a commitment of $81 million to create an updated, state-of-the-art, Neuro Intensive Care Unit with more than twice the number of current beds. The current Neuro ICU at the U of A Hospital is one of only two dedicated Neuro ICUs in Canada, and the only one in Western Canada. Albertans will also benefit from the excellent work of the University Hospital Foundation, whose contributions to this project have totaled nearly $17 million. The Alberta government is grateful to Hospital Foundations across this province for their partnership in so many health care initiatives.

Sometimes helping Albertans with their healthcare requires a bit of communication with professionals outside of health. The Government of Alberta has committed $2.4 million to support the provincial implementation of HealthIM, a system that — when fully implemented — will equip police officers with information to better assess the needs of a person experiencing a mental health emergency when police respond to calls for service. HealthIM will help a police officer decide whether a person should be conveyed to a designated facility, and will facilitate communication between law enforcement and health services. If apprehension isn’t warranted, officers can use HealthIM to link a person to community supports or a service provider the individual is familiar with. Besides increasing safety for all involved, HealthIM will ensure a more effective use of police and emergency resources.

The Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP) was established in 1991 by the Government of Alberta with the mandate of helping rural Albertans keep health care close to home. They have been working to attract and retain health providers ever since that time. One of their initiatives is the administration of up to four RhPAP Rural Medical School Awards each year. I am delighted that for the second year in a row, a medical student from our very own riding of Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin has been chosen to receive a $5,000 award to assist with costs associated with medical school! I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Jaslyn Rasmuson, this year’s brilliant recipient, who grew up in Gwynne, and plans to pursue her passions for rural medicine and women’s health by returning to her roots and working in a rural community.

Not all of us can contribute to our health care system like Jaslyn will, but did you know that 50 per cent of all Canadians are eligible to save lives by donating blood? June 14 was World Blood Donor Day. Don’t worry if you missed it; donations are needed every day, and your selfless contribution will be welcomed regardless of the date! Please consider becoming a donor by contacting Canadian Blood Services at https://www.blood.ca/en. Or you can call 1-888-236-6283.

I hope you did something special to celebrate the fathers and father figures in your lives this past weekend. I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to have excellent role models, and am happy every now and then to stop and consider just how privileged I am to be called Dad and Grandpa by some pretty special people.

—MLA Rick Wilson, Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin