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Tamarack Health Advisory Council holds final virtual meeting

12 new Regional Advisory Councils to replace old HACs at end of June
One of 12 Health Advisory Councils operating across Alberta, the Tamarack HAC represented a region that stretched from the B.C. border to Westlock, encompassing Barrhead, Swan Hills, Mayerthorpe and a number of other communities.

BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK —  The Tamarack Health Advisory Council (HAC) — one of 12 regional groups meant to act as a conduit for feedback between the public and Alberta Health Services and which included members from Westlock, Barrhead and Swan Hills — held its final virtual meeting on May 7. 

Tamarack is one of 12 HACs covering the entirety of Alberta, with its coverage area running from Westlock on the very east end to the B.C. border on the west end. 

The 12 HACs were originally established in 2009, formed from the amalgamation of 59 Community Health Councils that operated under the former 12 health regions. 

Each council was meant to offer a grassroots perspective of their member communities’ needs. In the case of Tamarack, a number of members hailed from Barrhead, Busby, Westlock and Swan Hills.

Last fall, the Alberta government announced a major "refocusing" of the Alberta health care system with widespread changes. One of those came in April 2024, when thee announced that it was forming 12 new regional advisory councils and one new Indigenous advisory council.

These regional councils will officially replace the 12 HACs, which would dissolve effective June 28, 2024.

One of the Tamarack HAC's local members is Pembina Hills School Division trustee Maureen Schnirer, who was appointed to the council for a three-year term on June 1, 2022.

Schnirer said she really enjoyed her time on the Tamarack HAC, noting that there are a lot of similar challenges faced by both the health care system and the education system in terms of staff recruitment and retention in rural areas.

Among the regular reports received by the HAC members were updates on new doctors and health care staff coming into the region, as well as openings in entry-level positions for graduates.

Schnirer added that serving on the council also offered her insight into certain trends, such as whether an increase in school absences in Barrhead was being seen in other communities like Whitecourt.

"It was just good information-sharing and collaboration and looking at trends," she said. "I thought it was a very meaningful council."

Schnirer said the HAC members were "a little disappointed" to hear the news about the council's dissolution because they did get a lot of it. However, she is optimistic that its dissolution will lead to something better, pointing out that the health care system as a whole is suffering right now.

"I think any kind of change is going to be good. I'm optimistic," she said

The Tamarack HAC’s final meeting, which was conducted over Zoom, included presentations on the Alberta Virtual Chronic Pain Program and the Alberta Healthy Living Program, as well as the usual updates about staff vacancies and recruitment of new health care workers. 

Andrea Jackson, the lead on advisory council relations, also thanked the HAC members for their involvement in the council.

Acknowledging that the group included both relatively new members and some that had been on the council for a long time, she said their contributions were valued, regardless of how long they had served. 

“You may not have seen big changes that directly come from your advice, but collectively – along with Health Advisory Councils across the province – you definitely did make a difference,” she said 

Jackson added that Alberta Health Services would never have been able to connect with as many people as it did “had we not had you on our councils.” 

For more information about the new Regional Advisory Councils and the eligibility requirements for joining these new bodies, visit:

[email protected] 

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