Physician crisis looming in Smoky

Municipalities warn ministry of doctor shortage in region

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A shortage of physicians in the Smoky River region will soon become a crisis, says a letter from local municipalities to Alberta’s health minister.

A letter has been endorsed by the five municipalities to Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“We understand you are very busy with the coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic,” states the letter dated April 27.

“However, you need to be aware of a serious situation in McLennan that is about to drastically change from urgent to crisis by mid-July.”

Currently with three physicians, Sacred Heart Community Health Centre in McLennan will be served by a low number of doctors in the summer.

“At that time, there will be only two full-time doctors for the hospital,” says the letter.

“As you are aware, this is not a sustainable situation, nor is it a healthy one for our remaining physicians.”

One of three current physicians plans to leave in July, the letter notes.

Town of McLennan Mayor Michele Fournier, Town of Falher Mayor Donna Buchinski, Village of Donnelly Mayor Myrna Lanctot, Village of Girouxville Mayor Alain Dion and M.D. of Smoky River Reeve Robert Brochu signed the letter.

Councils supported the letter which was initiated by the Smoky River Regional Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee.

“For 10-plus years, our Smoky River municipalities have worked alongside Alberta Health Services to recruit and retain physicians for our region,” the letter says.

“We need your assurance that your ministry has a plan to support our hospital and physicians through this crisis.

“We want to ensure our hospital has sufficient coverage and remains viable to our region so our residents have a measure of comfort in these trying times.”

The municipal leaders understand that the minster is very busy during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Smoky River area has been one of the hardest hit with the pandemic due to the number of cases and deaths at the seniors’ facility Manor du Lac in McLennan,” the letter states.

The letter will also be forwarded to Central Peace – Notley MLA Todd Loewen and Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu.

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