By Cole Parkinson
Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter is still pushing for numerous changes to rural healthcare. The biggest of which Hunter has been discussing at the provincial level has been bringing back a regional approach to dispatch.
“I’ve been pretty clear on my position on this. I think dispatch needs to be brought back into a regional approach and we should not be having this centralization of dispatch. There was a value proposition for why it went the way it did, but after months of doing this now, it didn’t work. And now we have to go back to the original approach. That’s what I am advocating for,” he explained.
Another topic Hunter discussed was around rural Alberta ambulance availability. With some rural-based ambulances being dispatched to larger cities when needed, this can sometimes leave communities without any. Hunter explained the province has expanded the fleet of ambulances in Alberta.
“As far as having enough ambulances in the system, I know that AHS has increased the amount of ambulances in our system. Last I heard, there were nine new ambulances, which will help. Most of those went to the cities, which is okay because that means we don’t have to dispatch to the cities anymore as much. That will be good,” he said.
The availability of doctors in the southern portion of the province has also been under the microscope. With Lethbridge seeing tons of families left without a doctor, the problem extends out to nearby communities as well. Hunter says he’s been asking about removing the doctor cap that limits the number of doctors allowed to practice in Alberta.
“I think we need to get rid of the cap. I’ve already talked to the minister about that, so I won’t be telling you something that I already haven’t said to him. I think that cap was a mistake right from the beginning and I told the minister at that time it was a mistake. Hindsight is 20/20 and we’re now seeing that cap needs to come off. The rationale is very simple, generally speaking, they are very high-performing individuals. If you’re a high-performing person and we say you can only perform this much, what are they going to do for the rest of the time they are working?” asked Hunter. “We started to see this shortage in doctors, not because we have fewer doctors, we have more doctors than we used to have, but they are restricted in how many they can see. I think this is a problem that we created and we can fix it.”
Hunter also explained this was an issue that lots of people are hoping for a quick resolution, but like most other things, it’s not going to be an overnight fix. He explained when talking to constituents, some need to be reminded the wheels of the government move slow — and a lot slower than Hunter himself would like.
“Some of the angry guys want it done yesterday and it does take a little while to do these things. I wish every government did move faster, but it doesn’t. What we try to do is temper expectations so people can realize we’ll move on this as fast as we can,” he said. “My philosophy is under promise and over deliver.”