Our newsroom was originally planning a more light-hearted front-page story this week, as the newspaper's publication falls just a few days before Christmas.
Instead, a tragic incident at the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre on Dec. 18 meant this week's front page had a much more sombre feel. While we try to avoid posting stories involving death on our front page, this week's story about paramedic Mike Hart's death from a cardiac arrest was too big to be placed anywhere else.
The death of an on-duty paramedic at the Airdrie Urgent Care centre hammers a home a message our sources have been warning us about all year – that Alberta's ambulance response system is broken, and that the city needs a full-fledged hospital.
There are too many times when an ambulance is not available in Airdrie, and too often are Airdrie's paramedics pushed to the breaking point, working upwards of 12 to 16 hours a day as they scramble to respond to incidents in Calgary.
A tweet from the Health Sciences Association of Alberta on Dec. 18 indicated there were no ambulances in Airdrie – an incident referred to as a "Code Red" – on the early morning of Dec. 18. We'll never know for sure if Hart's death could have been avoided had there been an ambulance able to respond more quickly. Alberta Health Services refuted that a shortage of resources played a factor in the care and treatment Hart received.
As for a hospital, Airdrie is in desperate need of one. With a population north of 70,000 people, Airdrie is by far the largest municipality in Alberta to not have its own hospital. While Calgary's Peter Lougheed Centre isn't "that" far away from Airdrie, every second counts in a medical emergency.
Articles have been written, town halls have been held, and politicians have discussed the issue at length in Airdrie City council meetings. But nothing has changed. It's time for change.