Hello Chestermere-Strathmore readers. I would first like to give my deepest condolences to the families and friends who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I would also like to send my condolences to family and friends of former NDP MLA Erin Babcock who lost her battle with cancer this past weekend. She was a mother of 3 and was a passionate legislator, and she will be truly missed.
Our fellow Albertans in shelters or struggling with homelessness are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. To protect their safety and allow for a fast response Alberta Health will be conducting asymptomatic testing of these vulnerable people. The Government has also expanded surge capacity, including 14 new operational shelters across Alberta and using hotel and motel rooms for isolation.
I would like to thank everyone in our social agencies and our non-profit and charitable sectors for your tireless efforts to help vulnerable Albertans. Your input and resilience has been inspiring. The impact of COVID-19 on our vulnerable populations is heart-wrenching, and we are doing everything we can to help out. People currently receiving support through AISH or other provincial programs have expressed concern that if they receive support under the Federal CERB program it may result in loss of health benefits. Community and Social Services Minister Sawhney put a statement out on Sunday stating that the same health benefits will be available and income from CERB will be treated similarly to the treatment of employment income under the existing rules. If more help is needed, then those folks may be able to apply for emergency benefits. We are adjusting supports available under the Family Supports for Children with Disabilities and Persons with Developmental Disabilities to ensure they have the flexibility to accommodate the COVID-19 emergency. These details will be released in the coming days, so please contact your case workers and contact my office if you need any help navigating this changing landscape.
I want to chat with you about rural health care. Family doctors are the quarterbacks of health care in Alberta and we have made changes to the funding model for rural practices to ensure your doctor can give you the health care you need, including increasing on-call rates, removing the restrictions on overhead charges, and providing financial incentives for family doctors to practice in rural communities. $81 million dollars has been put towards rural physician recruitment and retention this year. In addition, Dr. Lee Green, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta and an expert on primary care will be consulting doctors and advising the government on the best way to improve rural health care.
Our rural communities provide a great quality of life and access to local health care is vital. We want our rural communities to be a destination of choice for family doctors and we will ensure they are compensated fairly.
Thank you to our teachers supporting students at home and thanks to all the parents who are doing their best to help their children learn. It can be a struggle, especially with the recent nice weather. We all want to be outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Please remember to follow the guidelines for social distancing, hand washing, and limiting gatherings. It’s hard when for example children cannot play with their friends but these restrictions are based on the best medical advice for your protection. Please do your best to support your local businesses in these trying times and please reach out to those who may be alone at this time. A friendly conversation and offer to help with shopping or prescription pickup will do wonders. In closing, many individuals and organizations have volunteered to serve their fellow Albertans during the current crisis. The Alberta Northern Lights Volunteer Recognition Program has been set up to recognize those who have gone “above and beyond”. You may nominate a deserving individual or organization at:
The Alberta spirit is alive and well! As always, I love to hear from you. Contact my office at 403-962-0126 or Chestermere.Strathmore@assembly.ab.ca.