Concerned residents, town officials discuss future of health care in Slave Lake
EDMONTON – About 200 people, including members of the opposition, came together for a public meeting in Slave Lake Wednesday night to discuss the future of health care in their community, after four local physicians handed in their resignations late last year.
“I’m pregnant, so health care means a lot to me,” said first-time mother-to-be Makala Matchett. “I’ve had some issues with getting ultrasounds…and I’ve had to go elsewhere instead of here because we don’t have the facilities for it. I’ve been told we have the equipment for it, but we don’t have the physicians for it.”
Matchett was one of many voicing concerns over the doctor shortage in Slave Lake Wednesday night.
“Over the years it’s totally downgraded and it’s making me worried,” she explained.
In early November, four doctors at Slave Lake’s Family Care Clinic resigned on the same day. While the reasons behind the resignations were not known, the move led many residents to believe there was a problem with the FCC system.
Health Minister Fred Horne says there are currently four physicians working in the community of 11,000 people, and there are two more doctors from outside the town who visit Slave Lake to see patients. AHS says there are also seven nurse practitioners working in the community.
The town’s mayor says it’s simply not enough.
“We’re a young community. The median age is 31. Lots of families, lots of young children. And these babies aren’t born in our community, very few of them are,” said Tyler Warman. “They have to go outside of the community because a lot of the time, especially if it’s a first-time pregnancy, you have to have the ability to have a GPO and GPA here to do that.”
He says not only does the community need doctors, it needs anesthesiologists and specialists for patients needing services like ultrasounds and dialysis.
“It’s very important for us, moving forward, that we recruit those people, because what’s even crazier is that we actually have the infrastructure here for them. It’s not like we have to add to our hospitals. We have two surgical wards within our hospital and we need the people,” added Warman.
Horne maintains there is no critical shortage in the town, but says the province is currently working to recruit two more doctors, a General Practice Anesthetist, and a General Practice Obstetrician to help perform C-sections.
“There are more than enough resources to continue to provide the level of care that we need. Does the community need some additional physicians? Absolutely. And, as I said, there are two being recruited right now,” Horne added.
Matchett says it will be too late for her, though. And at 39-weeks-pregnant, she says the though of travelling is just an added stress.
“When I go into labour I’m going to have to try and get to the city [St. Albert] as fast as I can, so that’s going to be another stress of mine,” she said. “I kind of don’t really want to live here anymore if I have to travel two and a half hours away.”
In November, the Alberta Government stressed the community’s family care clinic is a “success story” and the resignations were “for personal reasons.”
With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News.
*Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. It was updated at 5:11 p.m. Thursday to include comments from the Health Minister and Makala Matchett.
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