Michelle Bates, executive director of the Airdrie Health Foundation, is the guest speaker at the Tuesday, Oct. 18 meeting to discuss the value of forming a health foundation in Cochrane.

Spearheaded by the Cochrane EMS Emergency Citizens Action Group (CAG), the goal is to create a foundation to improve health care in the Cochrane area, including a 24/7 Urgent Care Centre. It's being held at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 73 George Fox Tr. starting at 7 p.m.

The Airdrie foundation started as a grassroots organization in January 2010 to advocate for better health care in their rapidly growing city. She says along the way they realized they need to create a foundation to realize their aspirations. It became a registered charity under the Health Act. Bates explains it plays a similar role to that of the Children's Hospital Foundation and the Calgary Health Foundation but is specifically focused upon Airdrie's needs.

"The best thing about this is we work with the frontline staff that works here in our community and know what we need. The things that we support are things that would never otherwise be funded, whether it's extra education for staff to increase their scope of practice or support programs with extra tools they might need or equipment that is needed as well," explains Bates.

They also successfully advocated for a 24/7 Urgent Care Centre.

She'll be speaking about the Airdrie foundation's journey, challenges, and current situation.

"The one thing I have to let everyone know is for something like this to happen, we have to work together."

She says there was a lot of tension when they first started seeking answers to contentious questions about health care and why they didn't have a 24/7 Urgent Care Centre. She says as they went along, they established a great relationship with AHS.

"AHS is able to come to us and say, this is what we need in our community. We're able to make our own decisions, based on the criteria that we have. Is that something that we want to fund? Is that where our donors would want the money to go? 

"We've been able to increase the scope of practice. We have been able to keep residents in Airdrie, fewer ambulance trips to Calgary hospitals. We've been able to change lives. If they have the support when they need it, then you're already on a good path," says Bates.

"We've even saved lives in the course of our foundation. That's the biggest thing; being able to save people."

Winter says he has probably sent out 85 personal invitations and they're hoping to fill all of the 160 seats. All interested people are invited to attend.

"Hopefully, we get a good crowd and we can get this foundation off the ground," says Winter.

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