Family medicine in Lethbridge was the first item on the agenda for the city’s cultural and social standing policy committee this week.
The main message: Lethbridge is short on doctors.
Representatives from Alberta Health Services and the Chinook Primary Care Network detailed how the area needs between 20 and 30 doctors.
This isn’t a new problem, with many residents struggling for quite some time to find and keep a family doctor.
The Chinook PCN said in 2017 it had 144 family physicians, leaving roughly 14,000 residents without a designated doctor.
The Chinook PCN said it projects by this month the number of physicians will be at 129, leaving almost 46,000 patients in Lethbridge and surrounding communities without an attached doctor.
There are also no family physicians currently in Lethbridge with room to accept new patients.
Read more: Doctor shortage in Lethbridge
Recruiting attempts are actively being made, but so far only one Canadian-trained family physician has been found while the area is in the process of adding between four and nine international graduates.
AHS said if there are not enough family doctors, more patients end up in the emergency department which backs up the the critical service, and adds additional workload to those doctors.
Committee members heard that it will take a joint effort to help recruit and retain physicians. Promoting the area and making it an attractive place to practise will help meet those goals along with bringing stakeholders together to help work on this growing community concern.
The committee unanimously approved a resolution calling on the city manager to continue developing an action plan to bring to city council.