Clegg’s Corner – True local health council desperately needed

Chris Clegg, Editor, South Peace News

Recent news that Slave Lake received increased service at their hospital for renal dialysis treatment while High Prairie was left high and dry should be worthy of serious note by all our politicians.

However, it was not important enough to be placed on the agenda at the Town of High Prairie council meeting April 12 or Big Lakes County meeting April 13. You have to wonder why.

Then we have news from the Lesser Slave Lake Health Advisory Council asking for more members. In its news release, chair Ken Matthews, who is from High Prairie, cites their role partly as “listening to the public” about their concerns. He adds efforts of the group have led to improvements in physician recruitment and physician retention throughout the region.

“…and an expansion of obstetrical services in Slave Lake.”

We have no doubt the committee has done good work in physician recruitment and retention, but it has certainly failed miserably on the renal dialysis issue. Remember, High Prairie was rated second highest in the province, but guess who received the service first!

Where was the committee on this one? Having Matthews sing the praises of this “accomplishment” certainly stings for the good people of High Prairie.

To be fair, we know that Matthews has promoted the High Prairie renal dialysis issue. So what happened?

Well, the council he chairs represents Slave Lake, High Prairie, Wabasca and surrounding communities, including First Nations and Métis Settlements. Since the only specific example the committee cited in their flowery, feel-good news release was an extra service to Slave Lake, we know where the priorities lay.

Remember, this committee is supposed to represent everyone in the region, not just Slave Lake. Apparently, some members of the committee forgot to read the memo.

How do we fix this? It may be time to revive the High Prairie Community Health Advisory Council under another name. Allow people to join from only High Prairie and the region, those who have the specific interests of the High Prairie Hospital at stake.

If you think for one second any member of that committee outside High Prairie gives a tinker’s damn about services in the High Prairie Hospital, give your head a shake. The increased service in renal dialysis and obstetrical services, both in Slave Lake, gives us all the proof we need. Slave Lake has not, will not, and ever will do a damn thing for High Prairie. If you think they are our friends, and are working for us, you are very sadly mistaken.

It is time to form a grassroots organization to promote our interests and our needs. We cannot put our trust in a group that constantly pours extra services into a hospital 110 km away while we get sweet-tweet.

It is useless to apply to be part of this group. We would be far better off forming our own. We certainly don’t need anyone or any expertise from Alberta Health Services or Slave Lake to tell us what we need, because we know they aren’t listening anyway.

So how about it, High Prairie? Do we form a group that speaks for us, or do we allow others from other communities to do the talking for us?

You decide. To me, the answer is clear.

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