Badly-needed new doctor arrives in Milk River, Alberta from South Africa

WATCH ABOVE: After years of campaigning with highway billboards, fundraisers and outside companies brought in to help, the town of Milk River finally has a new doctor. Quinn Campbell reports.

MILK RIVER, Alta.- After years of campaigning with highway billboards and fundraisers, with outside companies brought in to help, the town of Milk River finally has a new doctor, and a second on the way. It’s welcome news for a community that was on the verge of taking a major hit to its health care options, as the local clinic’s only doctor has tried to retire three times.

“We had a lot of help from Alberta Health Services but we just never gave up,” said Shelly Fleming Butler, a member of the recruitment committee for the County of Warner, Village of Warner, Town of Milk River and Village of Coutts. “There were times where it was really overwhelming, like how is this going to work? We just never gave up and we knew there would be a solution.”

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For nearly ten years, the community had been struggling to find new physicians for the Milk River Medical Clinic.

Dr. Liesl Lewke-Bogle has been a family physician in Milk River for over 35 years and has attempted to retire three times. She said the news two new doctors had been recruited was a huge relief.

“Within two weeks of doing the interviews, we had two doctors that, yes they wanted to come to Milk River and I was just–‘Yes!!!’ I was delighted.”

Dr. Pieter Krog started at the clinic in August, and the second physician, Dr. Adaku Ifebuzor, will start in October.

Krog said he’s grateful for Dr. Lewke-Bogle’s support while he transitions into the small-town lifestyle.

“I expected a small community, but it’s different than back home. Small communities back home are not that small.”

Krog is from Capetown, South Africa, where he said the population is over two million people. Milk River, with just over 800 residents in the town itself, was a bit of an adjustment for the new doctor. But he said he’s looking forward to rural medicine and was shocked to hear about the struggle Canada has had when it comes to recruiting doctors.

“I think I was surprised by the need of doctors here, I never would have thought [that would be a problem in] Canada. It’s kind of expected back home because we are a third world country, and you acknowledge the shortage, but I never thought that was here.”
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The recruitment committee would like to recruit a third doctor, but said they’re more than happy with the two doctors that have chosen southern Alberta for now.

Lewke-Bogle will stay on until the new year, giving the recent recruits a chance to settle in.

She was also recently named the recipient of the 2015 “Rural Alberta Physician Award of Distinction.” She’s the thirteenth recipient chosen by the Rural Alberta Physical Action Plan board of governors. They received six applications for this year’s award and chose Lewke-Bogle based on her three decades of outstanding dedication and commitment to her community.

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