Mayor responds to special investigation article published in the Edmonton Journal about closure of Rimbey hospital

This is in response to the article (referred to as a “special investigation”) which appeared in the Friday, December 5, 2014 edition

Dear Editor,

This is in response to the article (referred to as a “special investigation”) which appeared in the Friday, December 5, 2014 edition of the Edmonton Journal entitled “Four Steps to a Better Hospital System”. In the article nine “rural” hospitals are identified as ones which the author believes should be closed by government, one of which is the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre. The summary regarding the Rimbey Hospital is filled with inaccuracies and misleading information which needs immediate clarification. These are:

1.         Year built – reported as 1982 when, in fact, the acute care unit of the hospital was completed in 2008. It is state-of-the art and is highly functional with essential equipment.

2.         Number of beds – reported as 23. In fact this is only the number of acute care beds. 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. The 272 staff collectively covers 119 beds.

3.         Maternity Service – The article states “Rimbey is one of the few rural sites that is still delivering babies, though it’s unclear why. The hospital can’t have that many deliveries each year…”. The article goes on to base this statement on the fact that the New Year’s baby was born on January 20. In fact, there around 60 deliveries per year, and this figure is increasing due to there being two additional physicians in the community and that water births are offered. Perhaps rather than asking “why” something is, a more responsible journalistic practice would be to find out the “why”. In this case, there is a very good reason “why” and that reason demonstrates one of many reasons why this facility is so valuable to Rimbey and surrounding area.

4.         The deferred maintenance referenced in the article is for the replacement of the original 45 beds in the Long Term Care. It is not for the acute care portion of the hospital which, again as noted, was completed in 2008.

5.         What constitutes “close” in the statement “Rimbey has a number of other hospitals close by…” is certainly a matter of opinion. In our opinion, 48 km is not “close” and certainly doesn’t seem very close to anyone in an emergency situation, we’re sure.

6.         Political affiliation – The article lists the fact that Rimbey “went Wildrose last election” as a “complicating factor”. Political affiliation, we believe, is not relevant to a discussion about rural hospital utilization.

Factual inaccuracies, selective information dissemination, misleading statements and apple-to-oranges comparisons characterize this so-called work of “journalism”. We firmly believe a correction is in order from the Journal. To refer to this series as an “investigation” is a serious misuse of the word as, in our opinion, this word implies something much more thorough, accurate and factually based than the article provided, especially when it makes conclusions like there are few births because the New Year’s baby didn’t come until later January. We believe this article falls well short of what can be considered good investigative journalism.

Sincerely,

Rick Pankiw

Mayor, Town of Rimbey