There is something attractive about small communities and the level of service provided within them – it’s what keeps people within communities.
Something that Alberta Health Services focused on in making its decision to keep the home care office open and fully functioning in Magrath. The level and amount of service provided will remain the same as it has been over the past year, despite the removal of the audiology booth.
“Residents were concerned about the office being shut down and moved to Raymond. AHS came out and listened to our concerns and they came back and said ‘I think we have a plan,’” said Mayor Russ Barnett of the reason AHS was hosting a public forum. “I think we have a good cross-section of town and county residents here tonight. What’s good for the town of Raymond is not necessarily what’s best for the town of Magrath . . . and we don’t want to reduce or lose services in our town.”
Residents concerned by the recent centralization announcement made by AHS filled the Magrath town hall building to capacity, with some residents even standing throughout the forum.
“We heard a worry about a closure of an office. The loss of physical space felt like something was being taken away from the community and we heard that very loud and clear, but we will continue to provide all levels of service we always have here,” explained AHS representative Sean Chilton.
Things like the service-delivery area and the whole area were considered in making the decision in how best to provide services to those in Magrath. The office space in Magrath will not change, but home care and allied health staff are encouraged and able to use computers in Raymond if convenient for them, similar to a drop-in centre.
“In the new facility (the staff) will have access to that space to do the work they need to and the office in Magrath will remain open and in place both from an allied health and home care perspective,” Chilton said.
“It really will depend on where the work is. Some of the staff who work for home care live in Magrath, some live in Raymond and some live in between,” added executive director of Senior’s Health for the south zone Colin Zieber. “Rather than say the day it could be the hour. Right now I know that staff who are working in home care who need to the computer system in Raymond will go to the hospital and access it. The staff also have laptops (to do their charting).”
With technology being at the level it is, it has almost surpassed the need for physical charts. By updating and creating charts in a computer system records are easily accessible no matter where staff are located and aren’t tied to a physical location either.
Currently no home care office exists in Raymond, however initially both the allied health and home care offices were located in the Barons-Eureka-Warner building, prior to the building of the Good Samaritan’s Society in Magrath.
It’s been a roller-coaster of sorts, moving from Raymond to Magrath and now back to Raymond, but with no changes planned as far as service-level, staffing and supplies, the focus has been shifted to recruitment challenges.
“I was aware that two of the rural audiology booths had been moved to Lethbridge. It was my understanding that the use of the booth here was relatively minimal and that they consolidated booths from Coaldale and Raymond to centralize that service in Lethbridge,” said Allied Health Care representative Denise Pace of the booth removal.
“At this point there are no plans to change those services. We do recognize we will have some recruitment challenges as a result. But we have had to move people around to provide the best access to services in communities before,” Chilton said. “There are always challenges in recruitment. I cannot speak to diagnostics, that’s not part of my area, but they have programs in place to look at recruitment.”
Despite some resident concerns that AHS is only appeasing them on a local scale, Chilton reassured rate payers that AHS does have some ability to make decisions at the local level.
“We need to do a better job at engaging with the community,” Chilton said. “Recruitment has always been a challenge in rural areas, it’s something we continue to face and need to look at different solutions for. We are willing to have those conversations with you.”
Magrath Chamber of Commerce president Jay MacKenzie suggested a possible scholarship option for a Magrath High School graduate, interested in becoming a Combined Lab Xray Technician or greater to combat recruitment issues.
“Scholarships are one way, we often ask for service agreements in return (for those kind of things). If there’s an interest from the chamber then I think there’s a lot of other things other than CLXT that we can talk about,” Chilton said of MacKenzie’s idea.
“It’s a great way to bring people into the community and people from the community might be interested in those opportunities as well. We know the best people to stay in rural communities are the people from those communities.”
However how will AHS keep services in Magrath looking attractive with a brand new packaged deal available in Raymond, asked Diamond Willow Manager Gloria Alston.
“We probably have 23 of your 176 Home Care patients in the Diamond Willow and we want to remain a team. It is more attractive to work as a team, but how can we keep that in Magrath when what’s happening in Raymond is such a great thing?” she asked. “What can we do in Magrath to assure Raymond doesn’t become more attractive in the sense of drawing our doctors and seniors away?”
A problem AHS employees deal with on a daily basis, but feel the first place to start is by providing good services at the community level. It helps to create the attractive persona that helps draw new families and clients in.
“There’s much more of a community feeling (in Magrath) and that’s what we need to sell. There isn’t a single facility or centre I can go into that you don’t see that,” Chilton said of the importance of providing quality care and how it affects clients. “We have to build on that feeling of team and the excellent work and care they provide.”
That being said, Magrath has long since been an area seniors find attractive to spend their retirement in, which also opens the door to developing the community as an “age-friendly” community.
“There are government supports available to support a community to do that. You really have all the ingredients to do it, it’s just a matter of pulling it all together. Certainly that comes with provincial and federal distinctions as well,” explained Zieber.
Although it was just a suggestion, residents feel that promoting an age-friendly town will take away from all the progress the schools have made and all the growth incurred by new families choosing Magrath based on that factor.
“It’s a joint responsibility. Similar to the chamber and opportunities for improvement, those are the things we are more than willing to work together on, how we can create a community that’s attractive and allows us to continue to provide the services we are providing,” Chilton added.
“We just need to be promoting our town more. We need to be advertising more, it’s always Stirling, Raymond and Cardston but we need to put ourselves on the map more. As a community I feel we all need to be developing that hope,” said resident Patricia Dudley on an alternative to promoting an age-friendly community.
Magrath is also one of the “faster growing” municipalities in the westwind area, described as a place where kids can grow up safe.
“I had a double mastectomy two years ago and Raymond and Magrath people took care of me. Scott Jackson, Russ Barnett and Mr. Jensen from Raymond, they took very good care of me . . . we have to support each other,” said resident Deanne Atwood.
Funding for each home care office will remain separate, but concerns of centralization eventually taking over hasn’t dissipated quite yet.
“I was one of the people that moved here because it was a nice, little community that had everything and I’ve watched everything disappear as well,” said resident Art Bullock. “I am very happy to hear that someone changed their mind and allowed EMS to stay but what concerns me about centralization is in five years from now will I end up going to Raymond for everything?”
But Zieber said the need to maintain an office within Magrath is too great to ignore, and will remain open as long as there is a need for it, which he doesn’t see going anywhere anytime soon.
“There will be a flexible office (in Raymond) where one morning home care might use this office and someone from allied health might be using that space later int he day and someone from public health might use it after them,” he said of the planned office space in Raymond. “We are not changing the layout of the office here in Magrath.”