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Health councils push for more communication

A proposal by Alberta Health Services to further open the lines of communication between its board and the province’s 12 Health Advisory Councils (HAC) is a good idea says Kathleen LeClair, chair of the Greater Edmonton Health Advisory Council,

A proposal by Alberta Health Services to further open the lines of communication between its board and the province’s 12 Health Advisory Councils (HAC) is a good idea says Kathleen LeClair, chair of the Greater Edmonton Health Advisory Council, which includes St. Albert.

“I think that’s one of the concerns that all of the councils had is, we need to be in closer communication,” said LeClair last week.

Earlier this month, Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced its board will meet with councils in the new year to discuss possible changes that would increase communication between them.

“I think we’ve moved into a period of time where we’re trying to be more responsive to what the community needs. I think we’ve got through the storming and forming part of AHS and now we need to get back to reflecting better the needs of the individual Albertans and communities,” said acting AHS CEO Dr. Chris Eagle, during a press conference on Wednesday.

“The board is very conscious of the value of the Health Advisory Councils in helping us design better programs for our communities. The HAC have got to be at the table,” he said.

Each council consists of 10 to 15 volunteer members who provide feedback about healthcare service and delivery in their region.

Council members engage community members and report any issues or trends they become aware of.

To date, LeClair said the AHS board receives most of its information through board meeting minutes, which are submitted to a committee that then communicates directly to the board.

“You don’t just need to hear from our minutes, which is written materials, you need to actually hear some of what we’re hearing from people,” she said.

To date, LeClair said chairs have met twice with the AHS board.

The province is proposing more direct involvement on behalf of the board, including having board members attend council meetings to hear directly from the public.

“I think that’s an improvement. These were suggestions that our council actually made to them,” said LeClair.

“If you really want to hear from people, on paper is not the only means of communication.”

The Greater Edmonton Health Advisory Council meets six times a year in various locations within its region. Earlier this year, the council met at Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centre in St. Albert.

LeClair said members of the public can raise questions or concerns at meetings and can also send messages to the council through the AHS website.

She said there are several issues that have been repeatedly brought to the council’s attention by people in region.

“One of the major concerns that we’ve been hearing from people is about the emergency services and that’s just a general concern, it’s been in the newspaper and people are talking about it,” LeClair said.

She said the availability of long-term care beds and aboriginal health services are also concerns being raised in the region.

“We also heard about the need to ensure that you have services in the smaller communities so that people don’t have to always commute to Edmonton,” said LeClair

She said the AHS board should consider having public meetings.

“They don’t have public meetings and we can do public meetings but we’re volunteers and some councils only meet four times a year,” she said.

“You do ask yourself the question: even if you improve the communication between our council and the board, do you need other ways for the board to hear directly?”

The Greater Edmonton Health Advisory Council will hold its next public meeting on Thursday Jan. 20, 2011 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the North Edmonton Primary Care Network at the Northgate Centre Mall on the corner of 137th Avenue and 97th Street.