RIMBEY -The Edmonton Journal published a story on Friday December 5, 2014 titled, “Nine rural hospitals the Alberta government should close”. In this story the Journal reporter is suggesting that the Alberta government should close the Rimbey hospital based on the most recent facility “fair” condition score, and the outstanding deferred maintenance budget of $3.2 million. Presumably the Journal is suggesting that the government could save spending $3.2 million if the hospital was closed.
The premise of the Journal’s recommendation in my view fails to take into consideration the many factors that contribute to the value of the Rimbey hospital from the perspective of patient care to the community it serves. The value of Rimbey’s hospital extends well beyond direct patient care. The hospital also serves as a powerful economic driver in Rimbey. Statistics show that a rural hospital accounts for 15% to 20% of all jobs in a rural community. The presence of one rural physician accounts for 8.4 jobs in a local economy. It is estimated that indirect healthcare dollars spent in a rural community recycles through the community one and a half times.
Most importantly, the delivery of patient care by a rural hospital is often more cost effective than the same services rendered in an urban hospital. On average statistics indicate that rural hospitals have better or equal care outcomes as compared with larger urban hospitals. Ultimately this is about people and community. The value of a rural hospital is transcendent. Rural hospitals are the life’s blood of many rural communities.
As well intentioned as it may be for the Journal to suggest closing the Rimbey hospital to save healthcare spending, the suggestion will most likely cost Albertans more in healthcare. It is a misunderstanding to conclude that rural hospitals are more costly, inefficient, and have lower quality of healthcare service. There is no empirical data to support the Journal’s recommendation.
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.