Keay determined as leader to lobby for new hospital

George Keay as chair of the High Prairie and District Health Foundation participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of the new High Prairie Health Complex on May 12, 2017 standing on the right. Left-right, are Alberta Health Services north zone clinical operations director Dr. Kevin Worry, Town of High Prairie Mayor Linda Cox, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Big Lakes County Reeve Ken Matthews.

George Keay has been a pillar that laid the foundation for the new High Prairie Health Complex as he led a local charge to lobby the provincial government.
“I went to meetings every 10 days in regards to that facility, for 12 years,” Keay says.
“It was something the community needed and we needed to get it done.”
After he completed one term as mayor for the Town of High Prairie in 2001, he was asked by then Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen to spearhead a local campaign to press the government for a new hospital.
“I then picked several dedicated people to serve on a committee with me and we kept lobbying the government,” Keay says.
“It progressed from a $20 million facility into what we have today.”
Now, the community celebrates the health complex constructed for $228 million.
Initially, the government told him that it had $20 million to renovate the aging old hospital.
“I just put constant pressure on them that the old hospital was not adequate for the community,” Keay says.
“Every community is unique in what their health needs are.”
He and committee members were persistent as they pleaded the government.
“We wouldn’t take no for an answer, we just wouldn’t go away,” Keay says.
“We also had a lot of support from our MLA, Pearl; she arranged meetings with health ministers, that was helpful.”
Two premiers of the day, Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, also came to the community to tour the old hospital.
“We stressed the condition of the building, old and tired and that’s what they looked at,” Keay says.
“Besides, it also serves a wider region, more than just the town of High Prairie.”
Government officials also said that J.B. Wood Continuing Care facility can’t be replaced.
“I said ‘yes, it will be replaced’,” Keay says.
J.B. Wood Continuing Care Centre in the new complex accommodates 67 beds.

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