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Airdrie resident expresses frustration with urgent care wait times

“Somewhere over the last 10 years or so we've fallen behind and we're only going to get worse and worse as we get closer to 100,000 people.”

Joe McFarland, a former radio host and journalist from Airdrie, shared his recent frustrations on Twitter about the city’s lack of health-care resources following a stressful experience at the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre.

After posting his story on social media, many people responded with similar experiences, noting they too have had to wait to be seen by a doctor for six or more hours.

McFarland’s two year-old son got sick with a fever while at daycare on June 17. His son continued feeling sick all weekend, and McFarland and his wife noticed he had a rash on his feet and mucus in his eyes after a Sunday nap. 

With their family doctor booked for a solid week, McFarland’s mother-in-law took him to the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre to get checked out around 2:30 p.m. last Monday.

Soon after, McFarland received a text from her, saying that some people in the waiting room had been there since 8:30 a.m. that morning.

“My family isn't any stranger to Airdrie urgent care,” McFarland said, noting their first trek into urgent care involved a burned hand, while another trip there was for a pregnancy-related issue. “We knew there would be a wait involved.”

When they were told the expected wait-time would be around six hours, McFarland began searching for the wait times in other health facilities outside of Airdrie.

They decided to take their son to Didsbury District Health Services, as they heard the wait there could be shorter. After arriving in Didsbury around 5 p.m. it took another five hours before they had some answers.

“Finally, the doctor came in with a prescription for eye drops and prognosis of hand, foot, and mouth (HFM) disease,” McFarland said, after seeing several nurses and the doctor. “We were out the door at 10 p.m. on Monday night.”

McFarland’s family has lived in Airdrie since 2017 and he feels the health-care issue is only getting worse. By sharing his story online and talking to people in the various health-care waiting rooms, he noticed a trend of people from larger urban centres searching for shorter wait-times elsewhere, just like he and his wife had done. People from north Calgary were going to Airdrie Urgent Care in search of a shorter wait time, while Airdrie residents were heading to smaller centres like Didsbury for the same reason, he said.

His mother-in-law had mentioned to him that she recognized some people in Didsbury’s waiting room who had also been in Airdrie’s waiting room earlier that day.

“They had done the exact same thing – it's not just us thinking we need a faster option than six hours worth of waiting or more,” McFarland said. “As a father and a parent, you want the fastest care available because you're not a medical professional.”

McFarland recalled a radio show he once hosted with Mayor Peter Brown, where he called Airdrie a bedroom community of Calgary, saying it was a city of 80,000 people without the support and services to be self-sustainable. 

“The bottom line here is we're a city of 80,000. I'm a born and raised Albertan, just north of Lethbridge and I remember the days when Lethbridge had 75,000 or 80,000 people. Can you imagine if Lethbridge or Medicine Hat or Fort McMurray or any of those communities didn't have their own hospital?” McFarland questioned.

He argued not having a local hospital in Airdrie puts pressure on Calgary – a city that already has wait-time and capacity issues without people from external communities coming in for health-care needs. 

McFarland admitted he didn’t know what local governments and politicians have done to advocate for better health services.

“I think ultimately the onus is on the provincial government to understand that this is a city of 80,000 people and it needs to be treated as such,” McFarland said. “I joke on social media and with friends from Airdrie that we're kind of a glorified ward 15 of Calgary.”

He noted Airdronians are being underserved and argued while the City will sometimes hide behind the notion of boasting low taxes, it is also lacking some much-needed services.

“Somewhere over the last 10 years or so we've fallen behind and we're only going to get worse and worse as we get closer to 100,000 people,” McFarland said.

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