Some Winfield residents are hoping a petition will change Alberta Health Services’ decision to close the local health clinic.

Max Borzel, Winfield resident and organizer of the petition, says the concern is that closing the centre will affect the homecare that some in the area receive.

“Most of what they do is homecare for everybody,” says Borzel. However, they also offer other services, such as dressing changes, water testing, home assessments for those with special needs, and they have a physiotherapist and occupational therapist every couple of weeks.

Borzel says so far he has managed to garner more than 200 signatures from the community.

“We’ve got [the petition] in about sixteen different places,” says Borzel. He says residents can find it at many of the businesses in the community.

In an effort to prevent the closure of the clinic, Borzel has reached out to AHS, Winfield MLA Jason Nixon, the health minister for the province, Adriana LaGrange, as well as Premier Danielle Smith. He even went so far as to reach out to the opposition party to apprise them of the situation.

Borzel says AHS told him that difficulties in recruitment and retention is the reason for the closure.

“Some of their staff have to commute to come to work,” says Borzel. “To me, that’s a moot point. If you’ve got a job in Winfield, you’re commuting.”

The Winfield clinic serves a large area, with Hoadley and Alsike being the southern and northern borders and Alder Flats and Ma-Me-O Beach being the eastern and western boundaries. If the Winfield clinic closes, residents will have to use either Rimbey, Ponoka, Wetaskiwin or the Drayton Valley health clinic.

Borzel says there are some clinic staff who are living in the Winfield area and will now have to commute to another community to work. So, in his opinion, there is commuting regardless of where the clinic is located. The main difference is that patients in the area will have to go farther to receive treatment.

In her mandate letter to LaGrange on July 18 2023, Smith says, “A primary focus of our government over the next four years will be to ensure Albertans have improved access to world-class health care when and where they need it.”

Borzel believes that closing the Winfield clinic goes against what is said, as the healthcare will not be available where the Winfield residents need it to be.

He says he said as much in his letter to Smith. In his letter, Borzel suggested it might make more sense to enhance the Winfield centre, maybe making it more attractive to applicants, rather than shutting it down.

Borzel says there was a meeting of some kind held in Winfield, but if it was open to the public, he wasn’t aware of it until after the fact. 

Right now, Borzel says there are volunteers in the works of putting together a Town Hall Meeting for residents regarding the issue.

Heather Kipling, the communications director for the central zone of AHS, says in an email interview that AHS has been struggling to hire someone due to the remote location and lack of supporting services. Despite multiple job postings, there have been no applications to fill the positions.

She says there are approximately 102 homecare patients in the region, and that their services will not be disrupted when the clinic closes at the end of June.

“Patients who utilize the health centre will continue to receive the care they need close to home,” she says. “Home Care teams are working closely with clients through this change.”

Kipling says that the staff who would travel to the clinic to offer their services will continue to have their services be available at other clinics. Staff will also try to coordinate appointments across services to help mitigate the travel time.

“Relocating services to larger healthcare sites will result in enhanced, high-quality care aligned with current best practices. Patients will have improved access to other health services under the same roof. More staff to draw from at more established sites also means more continuity in scheduling and maintaining client appointments,” says Kipling.

She also stressed there would be no job losses as a result of the centre closing. Staff will instead be transferred to one of the neighbouring clinics. 

“Transitioning Winfield Home Care clients to other Home Care teams in nearby communities will not impact access for other clients. All current Home Care staff who are supporting clients through the Winfield Health Centre will be reassigned to work out of other nearby communities, including Drayton Valley, where they will continue to be able to support their existing Winfield clients,” she says.

Anyone looking to sign the petition can find it in most of the local businesses in Winfield, including the hardware store, feed store, and grocery store among others.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 09, 2024 at 10:39

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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