Friends of Medicare is standing in support of Banff community members and physicians who are in court today asking for an injunction and a judicial review to keep the maternity beds open at the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.
"We are incensed by this government's lack of attention to the needs of the community," said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. Instead, they are looking out for special interest groups looking to make profits." Since the announced closure of the maternity beds, community members and physicians have repeatedly attempted to speak to both the Minister of Health and Premier Redford, to no avail. Covenant Health, which runs the facility, has refused to meet with community members without previous approval from the Minister of Health.
In place of the maternity beds, Mineral Spring Hospital will be providing plastic surgeries and vascular surgeries. The small committee which decided to remove the obstetrical services included one of the plastic surgeons who will see his field of practice grow significantly. "This government has a track record of making decisions without consulting those who will be affected the most. It is unacceptable that physicians and community members feel that they must take their government to court to finally get them to hear their concerns," stated Azocar.
The closure will force women to travel farther to receive health services and is a huge step away from the government's rhetoric on community health. "Who will benefit from this new surgery service?" asked Azocar. "The changes will mean less care for average Albertans and new services that only a few can afford. It makes no sense that AHS and Covenant Health are allowing a public facility to be used for private-for profit surgeries."
Elective plastic surgeries are not covered by AHS. Friends of Medicare has been informed that there has already been one case of a woman being turned down for reconstructive breast surgery after cancer treatment unless she was willing to privately pay $6,000. AHS pays approximately $1,100 for the same service.
"This decision to close maternity beds in Banff is irresponsible and insensitive to the women and members of this community," said Azocar. "Maternity wards in Calgary are often full and rural hospitals are expected to help with the burden. Canmore, where Banff patients will now be sent, already serves a large population from surrounding areas and operates daily on a bed shortage. Decreased health care availability in rural areas is continuing to force more and more rural Albertans to move to urban areas so they can access the care they need. This decision continues the same negative trend in rural Alberta."
Friends of Medicare is calling on the Minister of Health and AHS to reverse its decision to close the maternity beds in Banff Mineral Springs Hospital and to reverse the trend of reducing health care services in rural areas.
Sandra Azocar, Executive Director
Friends of Medicare