Central Peace—Notley MLA Todd Loewen says despite a trio of new doctors hired to help staff the Fairview Hospital, concerns remain over the future of health coverage in rural Alberta.
In the last few months, doctor shortages caused nearly half a dozen closures to the Fairview Emergency department, including a pair of stretches during the recent historic heatwave. Loewen says he is thankful that the situation has been, at least, partially addressed for those in the Peace Country.
“It’s very much needed and it’ll be great to have that hospital so it doesn’t have to shut down when the doctors who are there have to take time off,” he says.
“There is still the McLennan Hospital [which] has doctor shortages too, and the hospital and emergency has had to close, and that’s frustrating.”
Loewen says the frustration for many of his constituents comes in the additional travel time if there is any situation that requires emergency care.
“Especially in some of our rural communities where it may take an hour or more to get to that hospital, and if that’s closed, they have to travel another hour to the next nearest hospital,” he adds.
MLA Loewen says the most recent news on negotiations between healthcare providers and the province, with the United Nurses of Alberta claiming the government is asking for a three percent wage rollback, is troubling.
“Obviously we need to make sure all of our healthcare professionals are properly funded so we can keep them in areas they are needed,” he says.
“I think there are opportunities to encourage nurses and doctors to come to rural Alberta, some of that is financial, but when we bring in health professionals, we need to put them where they’re needed.”
Loewen has sat as an independent MLA since his removal from the United Conservative Party caucus earlier this year.