AHS confirm they have no plans to close the Rimbey hospital

Fears ignited by an article in the Edmonton Journal that the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre may be closing are unfounded.

Fears ignited by an article in the Edmonton Journal that the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre may be closing are unfounded.

“Alberta Health Services has no plan to close the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre,” said Kerry Bales, Chief Zone Officer, Central Zone, Alberta Health Services.

Talk hit the streets last week that the hospital was in danger of closing after a report in the Edmonton Journal listed the facility as one of nine health care centres in Alberta recommended for closure.

However, the article simply states the Journal’s recommendations for a better hospital system throughout Alberta. None of these recommendations are substantiated by statements relating to closures from health officials.

Closing low-volume rural hospitals was only one of the Journal’s recommendations. They also recommend revamping the system to evaluate hospital buildings, boosting maintenance funding for hospitals and ensuring decisions about infrastructure funding are open and accountable.

Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre was one of the nine Alberta Hospitals the Journal recommended as targets for closure. Other hospitals included Redwater Health Centre, Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital in Castor, Swan Hills Healthcare Centre, Hardisty Health Centre, Big Country Hospital in Oyen, Elk Point Healthcare Centre, Boyle Healthcare Centre and Bassano Health Centre.

Mayor Rick Pankiw was upset by the article and immediately set about to clarify the facts stated in the Journal.

He said the acute care unit of the hospital was completed in 2008 and is state of the art and highly functional with essential equipment.

He also noted the number of beds reported in the Journal is 23, when in fact the facility also includes two family-centered care rooms, 12 emergency beds and 84 continuing care beds.

“It is misleading to report 272 staff and only report the 23 beds.”

Pankiw also brought the Journal to task for stating Rimbey is one of the few rural sites that is still delivering babies, though it’s unclear why.

He said there are around 60 deliveries per year and this figure is increasing due to the addition of two more physicians in the community. Another attraction for expectant mothers to have their babies in Rimbey is the fact that water births are offered.

The Journal also stated Rimbey has a number of other hospitals close by.

Pankiw said 48 kilometers is not close nor does it seem close to anyone who is in need of emergency care.

The mayor and council discussed the issue at length at Monday’s meeting and agreed a letter to the editor of the Rimbey Review was in order to clarify facts and ascertain that the Rimbey Hospital & Care Centre is in no danger of closing.

MLA Joe Anglin was also upset by the article.

“The citizens of Rimbey and the surrounding communities need to understand that the opinion of the Journal does not reflect the opinion of the Alberta Government. There is no current recommendation to close the Rimbey hospital, and, as your elected MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, I will challenge any recommendation to close the hospital, no matter what the source,” he said.

“Families in this riding see its three hospitals in Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House and Sundre as cornerstones of modern health care and lynch-pins for future growth, economic prosperity and acceptable quality-of-life,” said Jason Nixon, Wildrose candidate for the Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House and Sundre riding.

“Forcing rural patients to drive double  the distance, or more, for necessary health facilities and services is not progress, it’s a step backwards.”

Bales said recent investments at the site include completion and opening of new acute care, outpatient and emergency room areas in 2009. The $20-million Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre Replacement Project created 2,596 square metres of new space at the site, replacing the former 1949 hospital structure. Renovations were also made to over 700 square metres of existing space.”

The Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre includes 23 acute care beds and 84 continuing care beds. As of March of this year, 272 individuals worked at the site—this includes both full and part time staff.