LETTER – Demand for renal dialysis does not require service

Re: True local health council desperately needed

On April 19, an opinion article published in the High Prairie South Peace News [Clegg’s Corner] outlined concerns about the Lesser Slave Lake Health Advisory Council, and a perceived lack of support and advocacy for High Prairie.
AHS would like to take a moment to address some of the issues raised in the article.

The purpose of Alberta’s 12 Health Advisory Councils is to listen to the public in and surrounding all of the communities in the council area and provide feedback to Alberta Health Services. The Lesser Slave Lake HAC represents municipalities including High Prairie, Slave Lake and Wabasca, as well as residents in areas surrounding these communities.

All HAC members across the province, including those on the Lesser Slave Lake HAC, are passionate about health and health care and extremely committed to their communities, and we thank them for their time spent volunteering on the HAC and engaging with residents in their communities.

Three of the current Lesser Slave Lake HAC volunteer members: Connie McKee, Colleen Greer and Ken Matthews, reside in the High Prairie area. These local members, and the HAC as a whole, have played an important role in supporting the development of a new health complex in High Prairie, which is now set to begin providing patient care in early 2017.

The HAC was also instrumental in encouraging a new AHS EMS station in Wabasca.

In addition to the HAC, the High Prairie Community Health and Wellness Clinic Community Participation Team focuses directly on High Prairie primary care services and helping to articulate community needs. McKee is also involved with this group, along with her role on the HAC.

Public participation is essential to improving the quality and accountability of health services. Continuing to draw on community members for feedback and input will help us meet our mission of providing a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

Regarding renal dialysis service in High Prairie, AHS works with patients to make sure that they get dialysis treatments they need as close to home as possible, while also providing sustainable care. For a number of patients in the North Zone who are not eligible to receive home dialysis, travel to another community is required. It’s important to note that dialysis is a life-saving, specialized service that is not easily or quickly expanded to every community.

Alberta Health Services’ Northern Alberta Renal Program continues to monitor the patient needs in High Prairie. At this time, a permanent dialysis unit is not required based on current patient numbers. For future consideration and possible expansion, space in the new High Prairie Health Complex has been set aside for a permanent dialysis unit.

As is always the case, we welcome comments and discussions about health care services. The public is always welcome to attend HAC meetings, with a portion of the agenda set aside for public discussion and comments.

The next Lesser Slave Lake HAC meeting is scheduled for May 16, 2016 from 5-8 p.m. at the High Prairie Complex Centre. Additional information about the HAC, including meeting dates, minutes and agendas, as well as information about the role of volunteer HAC members, is available on our website.

AHS is currently recruiting new volunteer members to HACs across the province. Applications are being accepted until May 18, with new members being appointed in July. What we’re looking for are people who are community minded and passionate about health and healthcare.

HAC applicants should be able to attend about five meetings per year in addition to community consultation efforts. Being well connected to the community they represent is also important, so that members can engage broadly and represent the community as a whole.

Anyone interested in applying to become an HAC member can call [1-877] 275-8830 or email community.engagement@ahs.ca.

As with all communities the North Zone and across the province, AHS remains dedicated to providing the best care possible to every Albertan. In order to achieve those results, we have and will continue to work closely with all HAC members, and support their important and ongoing engagement work.
Shelly Pusch,
Chief Zone Officer, North,
Alberta Health Services.

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