LETHBRIDGE, AB – The doctor shortage in Lethbridge remains top of mind for many with approximately one-third of the population now without a family physician.
News broke earlier this month that eleven doctors from the south side Bigelow Fowler Clinic had given their notice, with the location set to close its doors by the end of November.
Paige Sauter and her family were patients there. She wants to know what is being done to resolve the issues that’s preventing the recruitment of new doctors to Lethbridge and to Alberta.
“We’re being left with no answers and at this point, no timeline for when that’s going to change.”
Over the past year, Lethbridge has had the largest decline in physicians among major Alberta communities, losing 15 doctors.
Sauter joined Lethbridge West NDP MLA Shannon Phillips Tuesday afternoon to call attention to the issue.
Phillips is asking the new Health Minister, Jason Copping, to deliver a four point, 30 day action plan focused on four urgent deliverables :
- Develop a short term targeted physician recruitment plan for Lethbridge.
- Outline a long-term physician attraction program that is tailored to the community so that Lethbridge can take advantage of the promised federal funds that could hire nearly 900 doctors for Alberta, and 7,500 nationally.
- Roll out a community vaccine plan to ensure surrounding areas in Lethbridge bring up their vaccination rates to relieve pressure on the local health care system.
- Deliver daily, detailed, local reporting on the status of COVID-19 in Lethbridge and the south zone.
She says “primary care physicians are the bedrock of medical care, and having that bedrock shaken hurts all levels of our health care system. If Jason Copping wants to prove his worth to the people of Lethbridge, he has to repair the damage his government has done.”
Copping’s Press Secretary, Steve Buick tells MyLethbridgeNow that the Minister is aware of the concerns here in the city and he is committed to working with the community and local physicians to find solutions.
Buick says Alberta Health is working with the Chinook Primary Care Network, doctors in Lethbridge, AHS South Zone, the City of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce to support recruitment and retention in the community.
He also says AHS has recently begun recruiting to four new positions for family physicians in Lethbridge while offering to sponsor assessments for family practitioners who are not currently eligible for full licensure, who are willing to be based in the community.
Buick says the ministry has given the Primary Care Network approval to recruit a new Nurse Practitioner, which they hope will compliment the services of local family physicians in Lethbridge and help improve access.