After years of fighting, Airdrie residents will soon have access to health services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Alberta Health Services has confirmed urgent care at the Airdrie Community Health Centre will begin expanded operating hours on April 3.
“We’ve listened to the community about their health-care needs and have come up with a solution that meets these needs,” Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said in a news release Monday.
Residents of the community, north of Calgary, have been advocating for better overnight health-care access for several years.
Originally, the Airdrie Health Foundation had pressed for a 24-hour emergency room (ER). The $35-million proposal had been supported by the previous PC provincial government and money had been allocated to the project in the 2015 provincial budget.
However, last fall, the current NDP government rolled out plans to extend the hours of the community’s existing urgent care facility instead.
Currently, the urgent care centre in Airdrie operates from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The nearest 24/7 hospitals are 30 kilometres away in Calgary and 50 kilometres away in Didsbury.
Airdrie mother Michelle Bates has been a major advocate for the expanded access. She lost her five-year-old son Lane in 2009.
Lane had been fighting a cold when he took a turn for the worse. The urgent care facility in Airdrie was closed and Bates decided to wait to see her family doctor in the morning, rather than try to get into an overcrowded hospital out of town.
Watch below: Michelle Bates shares her story in April 2015
Last year, AHS expanded the number of urgent care treatment spaces from nine to 13 to address growing demand. More than 30,500 patients were seen at Airdrie Urgent Care in 2015-16, up eight per cent from five years prior.
Urgent care provides services for unexpected but non-life-threatening health concerns that require same-day treatment.
AHS says patients with life-threatening conditions continue to be treated in emergency departments within Calgary and area.