St. Albert City Council voted last week to upgrade council chambers, including improvements to accessibility.
It’s no secret that standards have changed since St. Albert Place was built in the 1980s, but these changes are overdue.
Currently, people with mobility issues aren’t able to access the podium to give a presentation at council meetings. This doesn’t send a good message to people with disabilities who wish to participate in democracy. The council gallery also has no dedicated area for wheelchair users.
For those in wheelchairs who wish to run for office, the leg space at the councillors’ desk is not sufficient and the mayor’s seat is inaccessible because it’s on a step. This creates a barrier for people with disabilities – both physically and metaphorically – to serve on council.
All public spaces should be accessible, but it’s particularly important for city hall. It’s where our community is represented. Not only for fairness to all, but also for accountability and transparency.
There is substantial cost to do these upgrades, but this is an area that the city should be spending money on. Lack of accessibility robs citizens of the ability to enjoy these facilities.
The council chamber upgrades are not just for people with disabilities, they are for everyone. They are to ensure that all citizens are treated the same, with the same level of respect. As a city, we need to continue to strive for accessibility for everyone.
A new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information showed the Sturgeon Community Hospital had the third longest wait time to get admitted to a bed, and tied for third for longest time for a doctor’s assessment.
Some 90 per cent of patients admitted into Sturgeon hospital’s emergency department waited an average of 53.4 hours to get a bed last year, up from 51.5 hours the year before. The report also showed wait times are up to 3.7 hours for a doctor’s assessment in emergency.
The good news is that the hospital has made an effort to reduce wait times by hiring another physician, holding meetings with the emergency staff, performing lab tests on arrival and working with community groups to place some patients in community beds. Part of the issue is the high percentage of seniors at the Sturgeon Hospital who end up in emergency beds when the hospital is at capacity. For this issue, using our community resources should make a big difference. Let’s hope these changes help things run more efficiently.
The Sturgeon hospital also has high ratings from patients, getting 81 out of 100, which is second best in the province among medium-sized hospitals. Although wait times are on the rise, we are lucky to have our local hospital and our local health professionals provide excellent care. Given that it’s the season of giving, one might consider a donation to the Sturgeon Community Hospital Foundation. It would go a long way in helping ensure patients continue to get top of the line care in St. Albert.