Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Prentice Announces Review of Health Delivery in Rural Areas

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Prentice Announces Review of Health Delivery in Rural Areas

Article excerpt

Alberta launches study of rural health care

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EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Jim Prentice ordered a sweeping review Tuesday to fix concerns in rural health care, but opposition members accused him of plowing old ground to avoid having to take action.

"Many rural communities face daunting challenges, particularly when it comes to health care," Prentice said at an announcement in Olds, Alta.

"Challenges such as recruiting and retaining health care professionals and frontline workers, having to travel long distances for care for our citizens, and the need to co-ordinate services and facilities among neighbouring communities."

The panel will be run by Progressive Conservative member Richard Starke and include Allan Garbutt, former president of the Alberta Medical Association.

Rural communities will be studied in three groups: communities under 1,250 people; communities between 1,250 and 2,500; and finally communities of 2,500 or more.

The panel is to report back on the first group to Health Minister Stephen Mandel within 90 days. No timeline was announced for the final two groups.

Prentice, however, promised a swift response.

"This is not going to be a lengthy process," he said.

However, opposition members noted the issue has already been studied extensively in the recent past.

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said a Community and Rural Health Planning Framework was completed in 2010, and updated in 2012.

There are also 132 individual geographic breakdowns available online, titled primary health care community profiles.

"There has been no shortage of reports, reviews and studies," Forsyth said in a news release.

"We don't need 90 days to watch more government studies gather dust on the shelf. We need action."

NDP health critic David Eggen said the study is a political move by a PC government that needs to retain or win back rural support ahead of a spring election in 2016.

"It's clear they are trying to stall for time," said Eggen in an interview.

"People in rural areas know that they've seen their hospitals and senior centres closed. …

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