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As of Oct. 20, Albertans have the the opportunity to protect themselves and others against influenza with the launch of Alberta’s annual influenza immunization program.

The program makes vaccine available free of charge to all Albertans six months of age and older at hundreds of Alberta Health Services (AHS) public influenza immunization clinics, as well as at pharmacist and physician offices around the province.

“Influenza arrives every fall, and chances are, you will be exposed,” says Dr. Mayank Singal, a Medical Officer of Health with AHS in North Zone.

“You may be healthy now, but keep in mind: good health isn’t contagious. Influenza is. To protect your health, get immunized.”

Immunization is the most effective means of protecting against the strains of influenza virus expected to circulate this season. Because those strains change from season to season, Albertans are reminded that they cannot rely on having been immunized in years past.

“It’s pretty simple: to be protected this season, you need to be immunized this season,” says Dr. Singal. “Without immunization, you’re at risk.”

That risk is not something to be underestimated. Last season, more than 1,870 Albertans were hospitalized due to influenza, and for 103 Albertans it was fatal. Thousands more suffered from the illness and put those around them at risk of contracting influenza as well.

“Chances are your friends and family don’t want influenza any more than you do,” says Dr. Singal.

“So don’t take that chance. Get immunized.”

For more information, including local clinic schedules, Albertans can visit www.ahs.ca/influenza or call Health Link at 811.

Clinic times

While the Flu shot is available at pharmacies and doctors officers across Cold Lake, immunization clinics will be held in the community as well.

The final flu clinic at the Agriplex will be held on Oct. 28 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Cold Lake Community Health Services building, located beween the court house and the RCMP, across from the Grand Centre Library parking lot, is holding a drop in clinic on select dates from November 3 until March 31.

Upcoming dates include:

Nov 3, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Nov. 4, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Nov. 5, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Nov. 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nov. 10, 12 and 17, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

More information and a full list of dates can be found at ahs.ca/influenza.

Article in Cold Lake Sun - Monday, October 26, 2015 5:22:13 MDT PM

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has introduced a new dementia advice service through Health Link that was made possible through a $1.1 million grant from the Government of Alberta.

According to AHS, there are at least 40,000 Albertans who are currently living with dementia. That number is expected to double in Alberta as the population ages. By 2038, it is expected that one in 10 Albertans over age 65 will have dementia.

The syndrome affects memory, thinking, orientation, judgment and ability to carry out daily activities.

“Strengthening supports for Albertans with dementia through the new 811 service is a tremendous step forward in making sure people with dementia, their families, and their caregivers have much-needed resources and support available to them,” said Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health, in a press release.

“Our government is pleased and proud to provide funding for this new service, which means better care is just a phone call away for Albertans whose lives are touched by dementia.”

The specialized service aims to support individuals and caregivers living with dementia, including people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The service was officially launched on September 28 and is available 24/7 to residents who call Health Link from the Central, South and North zones of AHS.

By dialling 811, people will be connected to Health Link staff who will assess their needs and address their concerns. For callers who need greater assistance at that given moment, they will then be directed to a Health Link nurse with more specialized dementia training.

Robyn Maddox, AHS executive director for seniors’ health in the North Zone, which includes Cold Lake, says that the specialized nurses are especially there to support those family caregivers in the heat of the moment right from home.

“Maybe if something is triggering an outburst and the nurses can help to guide them into different things that they can try at home to minimize that aggression or whatever is happening in the home,” said Maddox.

The nurse will also help to identify if a further level of assistance is needed and will help to connect the caller with local community health services.

“When someone gets a dementia diagnosis there’s a lot of denial, so they avoid getting that next level of assistance in the home. So if a nurse needs to come to the house on an ongoing basis, then the health link dementia advice line would link the client with the continuing care team in the local community,” said Maddox.

According to Maddox, AHS was prompted to begin this new service after they identified a gap in accessibility to these nurses with specialized dementia training, particularly in rural areas.

“I know that in rural towns we sometimes don’t have access to the specialized services that other communities might have,” said Maddox. “So I think it’s around access and it’s just knowing that you have someone to reach out to and talk to and help you when you’re in that crisis or when you’re just not sure what to do next. That’s really what I think is going to be the biggest benefit.”

Article in Cold Lake Sun - Monday, October 5, 2015 1:59:13 MDT PM By Celina Ip

More than $1.1 million in upgrades were completed this summer at the Cold Lake Health Centre to improve services at the local Alberta Health Services (AHS) facility.

Upgrades were made to building control systems that monitor most ventilation, heating and cooling units. The upgrades allow systems to run more efficiently, reduce energy consumption and improve control of room temperatures.

“These investments not only ensure patients and staff have comfortable temperatures, but the building control upgrades also reduce costs and help the environment by reducing energy consumption,” says Shelly Pusch, Chief Zone Officer of AHS North Zone.

The new building control upgrades are expected to save the centre close to $100,000 a year on energy costs, reduce electrical consumption by 13 per cent, and natural gas consumption by 26 per cent.

Funding for these projects came from the Government of Alberta’s Infrastructure Maintenance Program (IMP).

In recent years, additional IMP funding has been invested in other projects at the Cold Lake Health Centre, including roof replacement and repairs, heat exchanger and refrigeration, as well as renovations to the laboratory and Primary Care Network space.

“No matter where you live in the province, it’s important that your health care needs can be met as close to home as possible,” says Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health.

“This project helps make that a reality, and is part of our commitment to manage and improve health infrastructure and capital across Alberta.”

AHS, in partnership with Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Health, is building and renewing facilities across the province to provide accessible, sustainable, quality health care to all Albertans.

AHS currently has about 270 maintenance projects underway throughout the province.

AHS submits to Alberta Health and Alberta Infrastructure an annual list of IMP priority renovation, repair or upgrade projects for the next three years to ensure the projects meet program criteria. Projects are ranked in priority from those that must be done immediately to ensure safety and health of patients and staff, to non-urgent projects that need to be addressed over time.

Taking into account the diverse needs of Albertans, AHS is strategically investing in the health system to support patients and communities to stay healthy and manage illness effectively.

AHS maintains over 450 facilities throughout the province, including hospitals, clinics, continuing care facilities, mental health facilities and community health sites.

Article from the Cold Lake Sun - Monday, September 14, 2015 4:31:41 MDT PM

If you needed an ambulance during the August long weekend, you would have been seriously out of luck.

Cold Lake was in code red - meaning there were no ambulances available - for 3.5 hours on the Saturday of the long weekend.

The city has previously written to the province to address the ongoing issue, but so far, Cold Lake has received no response.

“It’s pretty serious because if you’re going to have a heart attack you want that ambulance to be there really quick and I don’t think 20 or 25 minutes is acceptable. But it appears that it’s happening throughout the province,” said Copeland. “Now what I heard was for 3.5 hours that Cold Lake residents didn’t have an ambulance on Saturday of the August long weekend. I’ve tried to contact the minister’s office and didn’t get any reply for the August long weekend incident and on Thursday last week we had the same incident for an hour and a half we had no ambulance in Cold Lake.”

Cold Lake was on code red for 200 hours last year.

Just as the number of code reds is increasing, official statistics point to the number of calls that the Cold Lake Ambulance Society has done in the area as having increased by 10 per cent compared to last year.

But while calls have been increasing in Cold Lake, the city’s ambulance service is also scheduled to pick up calls for hospital transfers to Edmonton and Bonnyville - as well as being tagged for calls in those areas after dropping off patients.

The ambulances used to be dispatched out of Bonnyville, but have since switched to a central dispatch command centre in Edmonton run by Alberta Health Services (AHS). Due to this new system, Cold Lake is often left without an ambulance for hours at a time.

According to Mayor Craig Copeland, city council and the Cold Lake Ambulance Society have been working for almost two years to resolve several issues they have experienced with the Central Communications Centre which is hosted by AHS.

“It’s been going on for awhile no matter what government that we’ve been dealing with . AHS policy right now it appears that they’re OK with an ambulance coming up from Bonnyville when the City of Cold lake doesn’t have an ambulance. They’re OK with an ambulance coming up from Bonnyville and that whole time frame that it takes for an ambulance to come to the City of Cold Lake could be 30 minutes.

“AHS is okay that the City of Cold Lake has no ambulance to cover anybody that would need an ambulance during that time,” said Copeland.

According to Copeland, it costs $100 per hour to call in an ambulance.

“That seems like chump change for a person’s life,” he said.

“We’ve lost that security in our community that when you need an ambulance it’s going to be there right now,” Copeland said.

“I can’t tell the residents in the area that we’re ever going to have an ambulance all the time in Cold Lake and that’s a sad state of affairs.”

City council and the Cold Lake Ambulance Society are continuing to deliberate new ways to tackle the issue and hope to come to a solution in the near future.

“More funding needs to come to this area and there’s lack of funding in northeastern Alberta for not only healthcare but for many avenues and so our council (is) debating whether or not we need to come in and backstop it. We’re prepared to talk about it. Do we financially backstop those 200 hours where we’re in code red, so that when the manager has no ambulances left in the community that he would engage the fourth ambulance and send the bill to the City of Cold Lake? Our council is prepared to have that discussion because we’re very concerned.”

Article by: 

By Celina Ip

Alberta Health Services has declared a whooping cough outbreak in northern Alberta.

So far this year, 182 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been confirmed in the region, which includes Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie. That number makes up about half of the total diagnosed cases in the province.

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing fits, and can lead to pneumonia, convulsions and other serious medical issues. According to AHS, infants under six months old are at the greatest risk for severe complications. 

Alberta children are typically given a pertussis immunization shot as part of the province's immunization program, with doses administered at ages two months, four months, six months and 18 months, then again annually at ages four to six years old, and once again in Grade 9.

AHS is recommending anyone living in the area who has not been immunized, or whose shots are not up-to-date, go into a public or community health clinic for a single dose immunization.

In particular, AHS says young children and those who come into close contact with infants, as well as health care workers and women who are at least 26 weeks pregnant, should ensure they are immunized.

Article on CBC News - Edmonton

(Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)