More health professionals wanted

Richard Froese
South Peace News

To attract more health professionals to the High Prairie region, a proposed new committee has been supported by Big Lakes County.
At its regular meeting June 8, council approved a motion to establish a joint committee with the Town of High Prairie under the banner of the health professionals attraction and retention committee.
South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart says the committee is not new. A former committee focused on recruiting physicians only as it worked with Alberta Health Services.
However, CAO Jordan Panasiuk said the committee didn’t have any structure.
“It usually had one or two members who were contacted by AHS,” Panasiuk said.
Council also approved a recommendation to allocate $1,000 each year to the committee starting in 2022.
The committee will also direct the doctor’s housing subsidy program under the Inter-municipal Collaboration Framework Agreement between High Prairie and Big Lakes.
Recommendations were presented by the inter-municipal committee which met on March 4 and March 22.
On another motion, council approved a change to adjust the subsidy to three months residential rent from six months starting in 2023, said Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.
However, two councillors are not sold on the housing subsidy for physicians.
“I don’t really like the program,” North – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk said.
“Doctors make enough money.”
Stewart agreed the program is not fully effective.
Some physicians stay a few months and then leave, she noted.
Housing subsidy is not effective, added Joussard Councillor Richard Mifflin, a Big Lakes representative on the inter-municipal committee.
He said an official from the Alberta Rural Health Professions Action Plan to the inter-municipal committee said a housing subsidy program is not an effective incentive to attract physicians.
Hawken noted highlights from the inter-municipal committee meetings.
Big Lakes and High Prairie agree the doctor’s housing subsidy program is best provided on an inter-municipal basis to help attract doctors to the area to provide quality health services to residents. Both municipalities agree to share the costs of the first six months of rent for new physicians on a 50-50 basis.
Big Lakes and High Prairie each contribute $4,000.
Information about recruiting and retaining health professionals was presented to the committee at a meeting March 4.
The provincial government announced Jan. 31 the new Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Experience Program that provides incentives to doctors to relocated to designated rural communities.
High Prairie was not selected in the first year of the program.

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