The Mountaineer - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada
© 2007 The Mountaineer Publishing Company Limited.

Operation Healthy Hospital
By Tyler Klinkhammer, staff reporter
with files from the mountaineer

The Rocky Health Foundation (RHF) has launched Operation Healthy Hospital, a fundraising campaign to upgrade the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre’s operating room, endoscopy and maternity/newborn programs. The group is seeking $100,000 to cover the costs of the upgrades.
The upgrades that are being proposed by the RHF are not only to improve the quality of service offered at the health centre, but are an important step in retaining skilled specialists, said Shirley Hope, the site manager with the RHF.
The stress of having to travel for procedures and cover fuel costs, while already under the burden of an ailment can be an unneeded stress, as well, said Hope.
“You have to go to Red Deer for a meeting with a doctor, and then the surgeon, and then for follow-ups. It all adds up,” she said.
Offering these services close to home helps patient outcomes by reducing travel, but also gives families a chance to visit and offer their support as well, she said.
With the constantly shifting nature of the health-care industry, new doctors are often trained in new procedures, and thus, need new equipment. But the requests being made aren’t unusual; rather they are in keeping with the standards laid out by Alberta Health Services, who are working closely with the RHF to keep the services at the Rocky Mountain House Heath Centre up-to-date, said Hope.
“We’re very grateful for the support of AHS in this,” Michelle Meatheringham, foundation coordinator with RHF, added.
The Rocky Medical Centre recently saw the addition of a few new physicians. Dr. Kevin Whitlock recently started as a general surgeon, and Dr. Azita Hanjani, who is Rocky’s new obstetrician.
Dr. Whitlock said that the possibility of upgrades to the hospital are an important piece in providing the best care for his patients, and for attracting and retaining highly trained specialists like him.
“It’s a huge help. Just basic things would be having an operating room that’s up to standards means that I could work here for the next 30 years. As opposed to, if it’s not up to standards, or if there’s concern over whether or not it can be brought up to standards, it doesn’t really become attractive to a specialist.
“In terms of retaining people I think it’s very attractive to have that and it also shows a commitment to [the employees] too. If you’re willing to spend some money it also shows the person that it’s worthwhile staying because you’re valuable essentially,” he said.
One of the planned upgrades for the hospital that was in the works before Dr. Whitlock’s time is a procedure room, which is similar to an operating theatre, but used for simpler, routine procedures. Getting that space could mean a higher volume of patients treated at the hospital, as well as reduced wait times for both simple and complex procedures.
“Now that we have two specialists—there’s also Dr. Hanjani who does the obstetrics and gynecology—the advantage with having a separate room is that we can then do procedures on the same day,” said Whitlock. “Right now we’re essentially alternating.”
One of the main tenants in Canadian health care is accessibility, explained Dr. Whitlock. The upgrades at the hospital are an important step in achieving that principle, he said.
“You should have access to health care wherever you are, to a reasonable extent,” he said. “That means not having to travel hours to get a simple procedure done. If it’s something complicated, like eye surgery or back surgery, then fair enough. But something straightforward like I provide, or like Dr. Hanjani provides… it’s very reasonable to have those in smaller communities.”
Having these types of procedures available close to home can make it easier for patients in recovery, when having a support system on-hand can be very helpful, and also makes it easier for patients to transition back to at-home care post operation.
“Not having to have people travel gives them peace of mind and decreases stress. Whenever someone has a procedure done it’s a major thing in their life. For us, sometimes it’s a straightforward thing, it’s a small part of our day, but for them it’s a big part of their life. When you have a big event in your life you want a support system around. So, it’s very advantageous for people to have something done where they live and where their family is to support them,” he said. “Mentally, for the person, having their family there is extremely important,” he added.
Meatheringham said she is already grateful for the support that they’ve seen from the community, and that every donation is important to the cause.
“Whether it’s $5, $500, or $5,000 everything helps,” she said.
If you wish to donate to the RHF, you can do so by mailing the donation to the RHF, which is at the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre at 5016-52 Ave., Rocky Mountain House, Alta, T4T 1T2 or drop it off at the front desk. To make other arrangements, call the RHF at 403-847-6641.