South Peace News
Big Lakes County council supports a proposed push to allow foreign physicians to come and work in Alberta sooner rather than later.
At its meeting Sept. 8, council directed administration to send a letter to the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons to address the issue.
In the letter, council asks the College of Physicians to increase the number of resources allocated to complete assessments on foreign doctors to speed up the process to allow them to work in Alberta.
Letters were also sent to Tyler Shandro [health minister at the time] and Alberta Health Services president Verna Yiu.
Reeve Ken Matthews says that would help potential physicians to start work at the High Prairie Health Complex without lengthy delays.
“Right now, we have four doctors who have decided to come here but they haven’t completed their assessments,” he says.
“Some of them are getting frustrated waiting.”
The assessment process takes up to three months.
“It’s been a problem for years,” Matthews says.
“They cannot be assessed in the community where they plan to practise.”
CAO Jordan Panasiuk says an improved process would help other areas in the province that are waiting to welcome physicians.
“This is a prudent step to ensure rural regions, and specifically the High Prairie region, have adequate health care,” Panasiuk says.
He adds AHS stated it has filled all doctor positions at the High Prairie hospital, although arrival and start dates were not provided.
At an inter-municipal meeting with the Town of High Prairie on Aug. 23, more information was presented about the status of doctors coming to the local region which is cause for concern, he says.
“Before foreign doctors can be provided with full duties, they need to pass an ‘assessment’,” Panasiuk says.
“This ‘assessment’ must be completed by a certified doctor that meets the criteria as established by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
High Prairie Councillor Brian Gilroy says he learned that a significant backlog has been created in the system because the Province does not have enough certified doctors to complete the assessments.
“As a result, this will delay the filling of positions and arrival of many doctors for several health regions, including ours,” Panasiuk says.
That led the committee to approve a motion to both local councils.
Many solutions to reduce the backlog were discussed at the committee meeting.
The committee suggests the College of Physicians and Surgeons consider one or more solutions to increase the number of certified doctors:
-Expand the age limit to be considered a certified doctor to conduct an assessment. Currently, the maximum age is 70.
-Allow the supervising doctor to be permitted to conduct the assessment.
-Increase the compensation provided to qualified doctors to complete the assessments.
-Allow for creative temporary measures to address the backlog of completing doctor assessments.