May 29th, 2024

Phillips calls for action to address doctor shortage

By Al Beeber on September 29, 2021.

Herald photo by Al Beeber - MLA for Lethbridge West Shannon Phillips announces a four-point plan she wants Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping to implement in the next 30 days. Phillips spoke along with two Lethbridge women about the impact the loss of physicians is having on the city.


Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips has released a four-point plan she wants new provincial health Minister Jason Copping to implement within 30 days to address the doctor shortage in Lethbridge and other healthcare problems in southern Alberta.
The NDP MLA and two women who have felt first-hand the loss of family physicians here spoke Tuesday to media at the Galt Museum & Archives.
Phillips wants the provincial government to develop a short-term targeted physician plan, a longer-term physician attraction plan geared toward smaller cities like Lethbridge; a plan to get health care workers into rural areas to get more people vaccinated; and she wants the province to provide more detailed local COVID updates.
Phillips said the recent announcement of the upcoming closure of Bigelow Fowler South clinic is going to have a serious impact on health care in the city. A large number of city residents already have lost their family physician and have been unsuccessful in finding another one, she said.
“The Bigelow Fowler clinic we learned last week is closing in November after 11 physicians gave their notice. Two labs are closed currently. The Campbell Clinic is one of several that aren’t accepting new patients and doesn’t have enough doctors to cover its current patient list.
“It’s not just an anecdotal crisis we’re hearing from our friends and neighbours,” the MLA said.
Phillips said just to get back to last year’s levels, the city needs 15 new physicians.
“Over the past year, Lethbridge has had the largest decline in physicians among major communities in Alberta,” Phillips said, adding the UCP has given numerous explanations including natural turnover as doctors retire or find new opportunities.
Phillips said it’s not normal to not be able replace lost family physicians “and that’s the piece the UCP has not recognized or done anything about. They have had the biggest hand in creating this situation where there is no-one to replace those family physicians for people like Savanna and Paige.”
The UCP has made “Alberta an undesirable place to live and work as a health care worker and now our families are the ones left paying the price for that,” she said.
Phillips told media Savanna Prociw and Paige Sauter are “like 10s of thousands in people in Lethbridge; they’ve lost their family doctor. They’re among the one third of people, in fact, who live in Lethbridge who no longer have a primary care physician,” said Phillips.
Sauter and Prociw echoed the MLA’s words with stories of their own experience here.
Prociw said she was lucky her husband’s doctor took her on as a patient after her own retired but clients she works with haven’t been so fortunate. She said the wait time in the emergency ward for simple things like prescriptions can be as long as six to eight hours, the use of ER for such common needs which adds to stress put on services provided there.
And while some rural doctors are taking on new patients, not all will accept them from Lethbridge, she added.
“I’m distraught people in our own community can’t access basic health care,” Prociw said.
She said the potential closure of a walk-in clinic “will completely slam the door shut for anybody looking to access basic health care in Lethbridge if you don’t have a family doctor.”
Sauter said she learned in April she was losing her physician and her clinic hasn’t been able to refer her to a new one and her family is left to wonder what is going to happen.
“My family and I have always had a family doctor we could rely on and in the past we’ve had our doctors leave and we’ve always been referred to another doctor to take their place and we’ve been taken on as new patients,” she said.
“We’re in a situation we’ve been told we need to find our own new physician and at this time it’s very hard to recruit doctors to Alberta.”
She said her clinic would do their best to provide a doctor until a new one is found but have learned their clinic is closing. And doctors in the area are saying they aren’t taking new patients.
Phillips said local surgeon Par Boora wrote online last week “this isn’t the regular ebb and flow of the family medicine workforce, it’s not what Grant Hunter called a micro situation when he dismissed concerns from people in Lethbridge in the news media,” said Phillips, calling the Taber-Warner MLA’s words “very very concerning and demonstrates that they don’t actually take the issues related to Lethbridge and those that affect us that seriously at all.”
Phillips said the medical system is in freefall.
“I need Minister Copping to develop a short-term targeted physician recruitment plan for Lethbridge” and have it operational in 30 days, she said.
She also said a longer term physician attraction program is needed that is tailored to small cities like Lethbridge “so we can take advantage of the upcoming federal funds that could hire nearly 900 doctors for Alberta and nearly 7,500 nationally,” she said.
“The UCP has created a toxic environment with doctors and they’re leaving, not coming,” she added.
Increasing vaccination rates in rural areas is also important and a plan is needed to get people in rural areas vaccinated.
“We can’t get out of this pandemic without getting people vaccinated,” she said.
She also said city residents “deserve better data about COVID-19 and what is going on in our communities.”
She said the city should know more about what’s going on with COVID in schools, proactively and in real time.
“We should get better than the occasional reporting of ICU patients in the South Zone,” Phillips said.
In 30 days, she wants Copping to “deliver daily and detailed local reporting on the status of COVID-19 here in Lethbridge and across the province in smaller centres.”

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So Shannon, how do plan to replace the one who lives next door who retired and three others that I know of who have retired. Get some numbers from the College of Physicians. The UCP making Alberta and undesirable place to live. Qualify that. If you listen to the mayoralty candidates they seem to be singing a different tune, Lethbridge is in Alberta. So undesirable that a massive health facility just opened at 608-5th Ave., South. You have rhetoric, where are the facts.

Last edited 2 years ago by buckwheat

Here are some of the facts.

The UCP unilaterally tore up the previously agreed upon physician contract contributing to uncertainty and a loss of trust.

Dennis Bremner

“The UCP has created a toxic environment with doctors and they’re leaving, not coming,” she added.
My God, you still don’t get it Shannon? I would have thought your partisan rants would have ended by now, you know very well why Doctors are leaving Lethbridge and using the UCP as the reason has to be the most laughable point in your atypical partisan RANT!
Doctors tended to live in the area closest to the Hospital. They renovated some of the older homes in Lethbridge. Then suddenly you and the NDP decided Lethbridge should be the Home of your New “Serve the Drug Addict” program! YOU were the one that authorized ARCHES to create the disaster that still occurs in downtown Lethbridge TODAY!
YOU were the one that sent $7million a year to a group that spread Crime, and disgusting messes throughout the downtown area. Yet its the UCP? I am not defending the UCP, but in this portfolio at least they attempted to save our downtown, while you focused on killing it!
So, after at least 3 Doctors retire, but I am hearing 4, and 2 move to Cochrane, one goes to Brooks, and another goes to Calgary and yet another goes to Canmore. Your “reason” is the UCP is making it tough and thats why Doctors Left the Province?
Can you read Ms Phillips? You have access to the same College of Physicians Report we all have access too? Can you read there was a Migration of 56 New Doctors INTO Alberta(that is after 120ish retired so Net-Net increase of near 180+ Doctors) at the same time you suggest some sort of UCP induced MASS Exodus, which you know to be untrue? So because you know it to be untrue, why are you pretending it is? I may have the reason, read on Shannon!
So you continually avoid the real question and that is, WHY ARE THEY LEAVING LETHBRIDGE, specifically ? I know the answer, you know the answer, but you use your political position to attempt to BS the residents!
You approved the SCS, you knew or should have known, that it would attract users from every small town and city within a 100 mile radius. You knew or should have known that putting a concentration of Users this close to the US border would create in influx of Dealers and distributors and we would become the HUB for DRUGS! You knew or should have known, it would destroy our downtown (your riding) and you knew you had a Mayor and Council that would not prevent this from occurring by stopping it through Zoning. So you knew or should have known it would be a stab to the back of the Downtown Businesses, but, you still approved ARCHES downtown location (your riding)! You then handed ARCHES $7million a year to make sure that when the knife was placed in businesses back, that ARCHES had the power to do a little Twist for good measure “We’re Savin Lives here, move outta the way”!
Now you postulate, that the destruction of downtown (your fault) and the exodus of Professionals (not from ALBERTA but from Lethbridge, again your fault) who thought they were buying into a good area (downtown) and saw your slaughter of their neighborhood, (your fault)that now………….. its the UCPs fault, how convenient for you?I would bet you neglected to mention your roll in this fiasco to Savanna Prociw and Paige Sauter while trying to get some election points!
You do know of course that the highest paid Nurses and Doctors are in Alberta, right(Stats Canada) so its not money? You also know they are not leaving Alberta, they are leaving Lethbridge and of course you would like to be re-elected right? So why not tell us how you are intending to shaft the rest of Lethbridge with your “cater to 1% of the non-resident to kill 99% of the residents in your next term? Perhaps we should know now that you will likely support any application by Alpha House in a bricks and mortar SCS? Or perhaps we should know your gov would likely kick in money to buy a hotel in some (Non-West Side) neighborhood to house the non-resident 1% Drug Users and disguise it as “you are assisting the Homeless” like our Council did?
Perhaps any Doctor that thinks he/she might come to Lethbridge should be given a map of the regions of Lethbridge you intend to kill after the Provincial election, in advance, so they don’t move there? That may help? Maybe we could get a copy so, “we too”, can plan our exodus! Why not post the NDP shaft map now, maybe Mr. Myashiro or Ms Fitzpatrick can help, they already had tremendous input to the present shaft ?

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

Here are some of the facts.

The UCP unilaterally tore up the previously agreed upon physician contract contributing to uncertainty and a loss of trust.

Dennis Bremner

Lets say you are correct. Can you explain why we ended up with over 170 new physcians over last year IN ALBERTA. While you are at it, please explain why the physcians we lost did not leave ALBERTA at all. They moved out of Lethbridge and went to other cities in ALBERTA and some retired. So again I ask Ms Phillips and you BertaBred, why is Lethbridge specifically losing physcians. You offer no explanation just rhetoric.


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