Town of Fort Macleod hoping incentives cure Alberta municipality’s doctor shortage

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Town of Fort Macleod hoping incentives cure municipality’s doctor shortage
WATCH ABOVE: The Town of Fort Macleod is rolling out the red carpet with an incentive program, hoping to attract more family physicians to the area. Officials are trying to separate the Alberta town from other municipalities also searching for doctors. Erik Bay has more on the program – May 13, 2022

Paging family doctors to Fort Macleod, Alta.

The town is offering a $10,000 incentive for each physician that signs a five-year term with Alberta Health Services and commits to practising in the southern Alberta municipality.

“We saw this as an opportunity to set us apart from other communities, to kind of increase the attractiveness of joining the community,” said Anthony Burdett, the town’s CAO.

According to officials, there are just two physicians currently practising in the town, leaving the region understaffed.

The Chinook Primary Care Network’s website doesn’t list any Fort Macleod doctors as currently accepting new patients.

“The rest of the need in Fort Macleod is filled by locums, doctors kind of rotating through to satisfy some of the need that we have in our community,” Burdett said.

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“I’ve been informed that we need at least five doctors — that would be ideal, possibly six — for a community of our size with the surrounding area.”

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The local chamber of commerce is also partnering with the town, developing a community welcome package for doctors. While the packages are still being finalized, acting president John Guliker said a number of businesses are already on board.

“As business owners and being part of the businesses in town, we see that if we don’t have doctors, people will eventually leave,” Guliker said.

“We want people to shop local. We want people to be in our community.”

As part of its recruitment, Fort Macleod is engaging with AHS through the Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Support (RESIDE) program. The provincial program is designed to bring more doctors into rural areas of Alberta.

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“AHS is experiencing recruitment challenges across the province,” a statement from AHS’ communications staff to Global News reads in part. “Although recruiting physicians is currently difficult across North America, AHS is experiencing a particular challenge in areas outside of main urban centres.

“We are aware of these issues, and have a dedicated team in place focused on implementing solutions to support recruitment efforts.”

As for when these initiatives can cure Fort Macleod’s doctor ailment?

“We’re very hopeful that we’re going to see some doctors this year,” Burdett said.

Successful RESIDE applicants will begin practising in their new community this fall.

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