Record number of Albertans looking for family doctors: Primary Care Networks

Shot of a doctor showing her patient his scan on a digital tablet. A record number of Albertans are looking for a family doctor, says Primary Care Networks. Cecilie_Arcurs/Getty Images

Albertans in record numbers are looking for a family doctor in 2023, says Primary Care Networks.

In a report published earlier this year, around 923,542 people visited the Alberta Find a Doctor website between April 2022 and March 2023.

This is a 29-per cent increase compared with this time last year, when 716,613 people visited the website.

This is also an increase of more than 168 per cent increase since this time in 2021 and a more than 428-per cent increase since this time in 2020.

As of September 2023, PCN said 65 doctors are accepting patients in Calgary, 35 in Edmonton, 54 in the North Zone, 26 in the Central Zone and 10 in the South Zone.

The Central and North zones saw the most significant increase in demand, with increases of 160 per cent and 110 per cent compared with last year’s numbers, respectively.

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The total number of doctors taking new patients in Alberta has also declined. According to data from the PCN, only 190 doctors in Alberta were taking new patients in May 2023, a drop from 390 in May 2022.

“We realize this can be very frustrating for patients who are trying to access care for themselves or their loved ones,” said Alberta Find a Doctor spokesperson Keith Bradford in a news release.

“Not all patients have the ability to travel long distances to appointments and in some smaller communities, in particular, clinics are full and physicians are not able to take on any more patients.”

Dr. Peter Rawlek has been an emergency physician for three decades, said a significant portion of Alberta’s population are disconnected from the health-care system.

Rawlek was recently appointed as the Calgary Catholic School District’s first district medical doctor, and he will conduct site visits while also developing wellness programs for students.

Rawlek said a significant portion of Alberta’s population is disconnected from the health-care system, and he is going to help youth in the CCSD to achieve better health outcomes.

“We have 70 to 80 per cent of students graduating with a stronger relationship with sedentary activity than with physical activity or being active,” Rawlek told Global News.

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“Studies have shown that 40 per cent of all students are going to develop late-onset diabetes. Forty per cent will develop cognitive impairment, prematurely. It’s going to be almost universal across the population.

“We have a lack of human resources, physicians and health-care providers … These next 10 years are not going to look very good unless we start to change around us.”

Fred Rinaldi, president of the Alberta Medical Association, said many communities across the province are seeing a critical shortage of family doctors.

The association has proposed solutions to Health Minister Adriana LaGrange to address this issue, Rinaldi said in a statement on Sept. 27.

“Family medicine practices and clinics are dying, and we must address those needs now,” Rinaldi’s statement read.

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