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WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has budgeted $22.1 billion on healthcare in 2019, representing almost 40 percent of total budget expenditures and an increase of 2.2 percent compared to the previous year’s health budget; and
WHEREAS Alberta’s population is experiencing a high natural growth rate and twenty-five percent of the province’s population is below the age of 18; and
WHEREAS by 2041 the annual number of births in Alberta is expected to grow by 26 percent; and
WHEREAS children’s health care is unique and requires a different approach than adult care given that children are particularly vulnerable to illnesses and infections, many of which can have lifelong ramifications if not properly treated; and
WHEREAS only two out of 106 acute care hospitals in Alberta are dedicated to children’s health; and
WHEREAS treating children close to home has proven health benefits and can help bend the cost-curve on the overall health expenditures for the Government of Alberta; and
WHEREAS the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Alberta Children’s Hospital treat children from across the province (and beyond) and are able to leverage world-class physicians and technology to support treatment of children in health facilities across Alberta;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request that the Government of Alberta make all aspects of children’s health care a priority by making excellent pediatric care accessible to all Alberta children, regardless of where they live;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA request that the Government of Alberta support enhancements to existing infrastructure and programming in order to provide an increased level of care to children and recognize that the Stollery Children’s Hospital and the Alberta Children’s Hospital serve as critical hubs to this network of care for children’s health across the province.
In 2018, the Stollery Children’s Hospital saw over 260,000 children as patients. The vision of the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Alberta Children’s Hospital is to continue to provide services that will help sick kids and their families get better in the quickest time possible. This is accomplished by providing care close to home. This is why the Stollery Foundation would like to partner with communities across the province. The vision is to partner with communities to build a Network of Care, where children services can be offered in local hospitals across the province so kids can heal close to home.
The Government of Alberta, as well as opposition parties, are supportive of expanding this concept. What is needed now is support from communities from across the province.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Health will continue to work with our health and community partners to deliver programs and supports that make a positive difference for children and families in our province.
The Stollery Children’s Hospital and the Alberta Children’s Hospital are renowned centres of excellence in pediatric care and act as the hubs to support children’s health throughout Alberta, as well as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon. In 2018 and 2019, there was a combined 16,600 admissions to these pediatric centres of excellence. Both hospitals have world class Pediatric Intensive Care Units for pediatric patients across Alberta. On May 22, 2019, the new $11.7 million Stollery Pediatric Intensive Care Unit opened, demonstrating the government’s commitment to supporting children and families through critical times of illness and trauma.
Alberta Health Services is increasing mental health services to rural and remote communities by using telehealth to offer services such as child psychiatry, in combination with local community mental health staff. Alberta Health is collaborating with the Canadian Mental Health Association to improve community‑led mental health supports in rural areas through Rural Action Plans.
Twenty-four of Alberta’s 41 Primary Care Networks have dedicated programs within their business plan that cater specifically to infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents. Technology, such as remote patient monitoring, is making it easier to support children outside of our hospital facilities. Regional clinics and programs also provide essential local supports and take referrals from our centres of excellence so children can continue to thrive at home and in their communities.
The Alberta Health response affirms ongoing support for the Stollery Children’s Hospital, including new funding for a pediatric intensive care unit. Their response also highlights increased funding for mental health services in rural areas including child psychiatry. This additional funding for children’s mental health care is welcome; RMA will continue to monitor how these services will be accessed by rural Albertans. The Alberta Health response closes by outlining existing children’s healthcare services available through the Primary Care Network, which has offices in rural Alberta, however 16 of the 41 offices are in the Edmonton or Calgary regions. RMA assigns this resolution the status of Accepted in Part, and will continue to advocate for access to children’s healthcare in rural Alberta.