The Cochrane and Area Hospital Foundation and EMS Crisis Community Action Group (CAG) have invited Health minister Adriana LaGrange and Premier Danielle Smith to visit the Cochrane Urgent Care Centre to see first-hand the pressures it's facing.

Brian Winter, chair of both, said he will also be participating in the Feb. 9 in-person session in Drumheller on revamping Alberta's health care system.

"I'm going to talk about the two things, the EMS crisis and the surge we're facing at the Cochrane Urgent Care Centre," says Winter.

They believe it's time to start taking steps towards expanding the Cochrane Urgent Care Centre into a 24/7 operation.

"I thought this would be a good time to ask the premier, the health minister, along with MLA Peter Guthrie to come and have a tour of Cochrane Urgent Care and see what's happening there. People are waiting in line outside before it opens, and they're treating 150 people a day."

He says they have received indications that ambulance wait times have started creeping up again after easing in the summer and are analyzing the most current Cochrane's EMS statistics.

The EMS CAG continues to promote its four pillars: end the flexing of local ambulances to other communities other than in exceptional circumstances; end hospital wait times, use alternate transportation for non-emergency transfers; and ensure ambulance crews return to base at the end of their shift 95 per cent of the time.

He says Health minister LaGrange is supportive of the four pillars.

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In late November, the local EMS committee requested a seat on the provincewide Emergency Medical Services (EMS) advisory committee. Winter says they have received no further word on that request as of yet but do have a conference call tomorrow with the deputy health minister Andre Tremblay and Trevor Maslyk, the newly-appointed provincial EMS executive director, to discuss Cochrane's concerns.

Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie is among MLAs encouraging Albertans to engage in the conversation on refocusing health care in Alberta.

On Feb. 2, Airdrie is hosting one of a series of 44 in-person engagement sessions launched to hear your experiences, concerns, and suggestions for the government's efforts to refocus the health care system. The engagements kick off Jan. 23 in Lethbridge.

Both health care workers and the public are encouraged to participate in these sessions, designed to have open conversations about the challenges, solutions and innovations that will help build a stronger health care system.

The sessions follow six successful virtual town halls that attracted 10,000 participants. More than 16,000 health care workers and Albertans have already provided feedback through online engagement tools to date.

Members of Alberta’s government will attend these sessions wherever possible, including LaGrange, Jason Nixon, minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, Jason Nixon, Dan Williams, minister of Mental Health and Addiction and Martin Long, parliamentary secretary for rural health.

LaGrange will also be visiting hospitals and acute care facilities across the province throughout this engagement and continuing into the spring. She will hear first-hand from clinical staff and front-line health care workers as she works to identify ways to make both short- and long-term improvements to health care delivery in the province.