Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Alberta Health Minister still being pushed to fix Lethbridge’s doctor shortage

LETHBRIDGE, AB – With the Bigelow Fowler South Clinic set to close its doors at the end of this month, the Alberta government is again being pushed to do something to address this city’s doctor shortage.

Lethbridge West NDP MLA, Shannon Phillips says she asked the new Health Minister a month ago for a plan and still nothing.

She fears things are going to get worse here as Lethbridge already has the largest decline in doctors among major cities in Alberta.

“Currently, one-third of the people who live in this city do not have access to a primary care physician,” stressed Phillips at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “Now, people can’t even get basis diagnostic work done, because even if you are getting routine blood work, if you don’t have a family doctor, there’s nowhere to send the results.”

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Back in late September, the government sent our newsroom a statement saying Minister Jason Copping “was aware of the concerns” in Lethbridge and was “committed to finding solutions.”

Phillips though says she hasn’t heard a thing since she asked for that plan to address to the doctor shortage, focusing on patient recruitment. In that same statement from Copping’s press secretary in September, Steve Buick sent the following:

  • Alberta Health is working with the Chinook Primary Care Network (PCN), doctors in Lethbridge, AHS South Zone, the City of Lethbridge, and the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce to support recruitment and retention of doctors in Lethbridge.
  • We’re very pleased to hear that AHS has recently begun recruiting to four new positions for family physicians in Lethbridge. In addition, AHS is responsible for sponsoring assessments for physicians who are not currently eligible for full licensure, and they are currently offering to sponsor assessments for family practitioners who are willing to be based in Lethbridge.
  • We’ve also given the PCN approval to recruit a new Nurse Practitioner, which we hope will complement the services of local family physicians and help improve access.

Phillips wants to the UCP government to put together a plan which includes developing a short term targeted physician recruitment plan for Lethbridge; outline a long-term physician attraction program that is tailored to the community; roll out a community vaccine plan to ensure surrounding areas in Lethbridge bring up their vaccination rates; and daily, detailed, local reporting on the status of COVID-19 in Lethbridge and the south zone.

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