July 15th, 2024

The importance of a family physician can’t be under-estimated

By Lethbridge Herald on July 2, 2022.


June 10 marked the fourth anniversary of the passing of legendary Coaldale physician Dr. Robert Kingston. 

He served as my general practitioner from my infancy to my early thirties, and without him I would not be here. 

He was able to guide my family through dealing with my complicated health issues that were little understood twenty-five years ago, assuring a frightened teenage girl and her parents that with proper treatment, things would be OK. 

I remember him stitching my wounds, setting my broken bones, and, on one snowy night in that little office in the Coaldale clinic, saving my life, soothing me through a terrifying time with his soft British accent and compassionate-if bluntly spoken-wisdom.

He left this world four years ago as he had served it, with little fanfare (at his insistence). During his long career, he cared for countless patients, always taking the time to listen, and refusing such accolades as Coaldale’s Citizen of the Year award. 

He told the mayor “I can’t stop you from giving it, but I’m not bloody showing up to take it. I don’t do this for glory.”

 Much of the medical community of this region remembers him as one of the finest, most compassionate, most dedicated practitioners to ever grace our dusty little corner of the world (and he never gave a rat’s behind about how much people respected him). 

After his retirement, I was lucky enough to be taken on by the GP who replaced him. That practitioner had instant access to my extensive records, was able to discuss with other staff at the clinic my complicated needs, and step in smoothly as a GP who gives me as kind and excellent care as Dr. Kingston did (without the lovely accent). 

Today, when I was at an appointment, because he knew my body, knew my history, knew how I tend to interpret symptoms, he was able to discern what someone who did not know me well could not have: some of my symptoms were psycho-somatic. 

He easily came up with a plan to treat what was actually happening, not what seemed to be happening on the surface, therefore saving my body from invasive testing and the taxpayers from the cost of such. 

As we as a region shuffle through this shortage of family physicians, I want to remind both the community and the government the importance of long-term general practitioners, especially for individuals whose health care needs are not simple. 

A steady GP can often catch small problems before they become big ones, resulting in improved health and longevity for the patient and less cost to the system in general. 

As one of the Coaldale clinic staff said, through tears, right after his death, “Dr. Kingston just took care of us all.”

 That’s what family doctors do, and that is why we cannot underestimate or undermine their value.

This government needs to do whatever necessary to fill the family clinics again, because nobody in this community (not even those who supported the initial government devaluation of physicians and the changes that drove so many away) deserves any less quality of care than I received today.

 Rest in peace, Dr. Kingston. You are well-loved and always remembered (even if you still don’t give a rat’s behind what people think of you).

K.E. Hann


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Fedup Conservative

A wonderful story and glad you wrote it. In my 32 years in the world of finance I never found any doctors who cared about money, as these phony conservatives want you to believe. All they asked is that they be shown some respect and have never ever received it from these phony conservatives , Reformers. We are told that we have lost 568 doctors because of the way they have been treated by the Kenney government and as retired doctors have been stating that’s huge. It takes several years to build up a good relationship with new doctor so he can learn all your problems, if you have them.

Southern Albertan

Factors here in Alberta, in this scenario of lack of family physicians include: the drastic cuts to residency spaces in the medical schools at U of C and U of A during the Klein era which is still impacting us today, and, the now cutbacks to postsecondary education by the Kenney UCP impacting residency spaces at U of C and U of A; the Kenney UCP’s troubled history with their treatment of physicians….It reminds me of a physician in our local city originally from the UK who as a promising student there from a poor family who wished to become a doctor, and was sponsored by the ‘state’ to go to med school. We need to facilitate more students going to med school in every which way, across this country, even if it means a ‘hand up’ to get promising future physicians into the system.

Fedup Conservative

If these fake conservatives, starting with Ralph Klein hadn’t been helping the rich steal all our oil and tax wealth there would have been no problem providing the poor with funds to become a doctor. The fact is our mayors can’t even find enough money to repair our roads properly or provide us with proper snow removal, and yet we still have ignorant fellow seniors hurling sarcastic comments at us for trying to put a stop to it. Even when they now brag about our huge surpluses oilmen state it isn’t anything like the proper royalties Lougheed and Getty were collecting we are still being screwed.

Citi Zen

I am not a physician. But if I were a doctor in Lethbridge, I would be leaving with the others. I’m sure they are all tired of the endless lines of people at their clinics wanting a prescription for opioids.

Last edited 2 years ago by Citi Zen

I’m one of Dr. Kingston’s grandkids, thank you for writing this. It means so much to our family to know he touch the lives of so many people and is still so loved today. Thank you


K.E. Over the year we have butted heads
many times over various issues. On this one you are 100% correct. I, too come from small town Alberta where the family Doctor was the “go to” for the family and knew your history. Many times that “Kingston”‘of a multitude of communities provided the very care you so aptly describe. We wish for a time that I am afraid is long past gone. Great letter.

Fedup Conservative

This is the first thing you have said that made perfect sense. So why have you been supporting a Liberal turned Reformer in Jason Kenney who has been desperately trying to drive these doctors out so he could close down Rural Health Care Services like he has been trying to do? He even hired Janice MacKinnon from Saskatchewan to help him. She closed down 52 rural hospitals and got the NDP kicked out of office by the Brad Wall conservatives. Pull her up on the internet and see what a disaster she is.