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Recruiting and retaining physicians continues to require collaborative efforts

Recruiting and retaining physicians and specialists to Lethbridge will continue to require collaborative efforts with the province. 

On Tuesday, Lethbridge City Council voted unanimously to allocate $15,000 from Council Contingencies for a refreshed marketing and recruitment campaign in partnership with Alberta Health Services South Zone, Chinook Primary Care Network, Economic Development Lethbridge and other community partners. 

The official business motion, co-moved by Coun. Jenn Schmidt-Rempel and Mayor Blaine Hyggen, has also directed the city manager to update the Family Physician Action Plan to include completed initiatives. The updated plan will add new initiatives reflecting the current situation, including advocating for physicians in specialty areas and exploring additional areas for partnership. There will be a report back to Council, no later than July 2024. 

“For the past two years, the City has taken an active role in partnering and advocating for the recruitment and retention of family physicians,” says Schmidt-Rempel. “Having the appropriate number of family physicians, specialty physicians and other key health care positions continues to be a priority for our council.” 

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Lethbridge City Council approved a Family Physician Recruitment Action Plan in 2022, which included the partnerships. It marketed Lethbridge as a great place to live. 

As part of Tuesday’s OBM, City Council authorized the mayor to write a letter to Alberta’s health minister advocating for specific recruitment efforts in Lethbridge for family physicians, as well as physicians in specialty areas such as but not limited to: anesthesiology, cardiology, child and adolescent mental health, diagnostic imaging, emergency medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and pain management. And exploring additional areas for partnership. 

“In 2023, we were collectively successful in recruiting 43 physicians to Lethbridge, 23 of whom are family physicians,” says Mayor Hyggen. “As a reminder, the municipal government does not have jurisdiction over health care in Alberta and this work has not typically been done by us, but Lethbridge City Council continues to support efforts to attract and retain medical professionals for the community.” 

The City is participating in the Southern Alberta Medical Program Working Group that is working to build the framework to train physicians locally. In the Alberta government’s 2024 Budget, $43 million was announced for the University of Lethbridge’s Rural Medical Training School. 

“It’s a great initiative to train and retain doctors in southern Alberta and will build off positive numbers we have already started to see,” adds Hyggen. 

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