10 new family doctors practising in Lethbridge, but might already have ‘full panel’ of patients

Click to play video: '10 new family doctors practising in Lethbridge, but might already have ‘full panel’ of patients'
10 new family doctors practising in Lethbridge, but might already have ‘full panel’ of patients
WATCH: Alberta Health Services says Lethbridge continues to welcome more doctors, but there remain unanswered questions as to whether they will help ease the local shortage. In the meantime, local clinics are also exploring alternative options to offset the demand on the healthcare system. Erik Bay reports. – Mar 27, 2023

According to Alberta Health Services, as of Mar. 9, 10 of an anticipated 17 doctors were practicing in Lethbridge, with the rest expected to follow soon.

“As (the physicians) work through their (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta) practice readiness assessments (PRA), it is anticipated that three will begin in between March and April, and the final four between May and December,” a statement from AHS reads in part.

AHS didn’t specify where the doctors are working and the Chinook Primary Care Network’s (PCN) website only shows Lethbridge doctors accepting patients at the Prairie Treatment Opioid Dependency Clinic.

According to Chinook PCN executive director Andrea Schultz, new doctors aren’t always accepting new patients.

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“Many of the clinics which have recruited new physicians have an existing backlog of unattached patients, so these physicians are already walking into a full panel (complement) of patients,” Schultz wrote in an email to Global News.

“Different clinics may take different approaches in their processes of how they are accepting new patients, as there many factors which influence this. As soon as a clinic lets us know that they are accepting new patients, we update our website to reflect that information.”

Click to play video: 'Doctor recruitment seeing some success in Lethbridge'
Doctor recruitment seeing some success in Lethbridge

Campbell Clinic manager Tim Neufeld isn’t expecting any additional doctors to join his staff in the near future.

The clinic is turning to nurse practitioners to help address patient needs.

“They’re able to take care of a lot of the routine health concerns that patients have and able to have them off for referrals or anything they would need to be taken care of,” Neufeld said.

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One nurse practitioner has been rotating through the clinic’s locations since June, funded by a provincial grant administered by the Chinook PCN.

According to Neufeld, the job specializes in three areas: underserved populations, assisting with chronic care and aiding patient’s without a family doctor.

“It helps us with a lot of patients that have been orphaned from physicians that have retired or have left,” Neufeld said.

The Campbell Clinic is trying to secure a second nurse practitioner.

Meanwhile, both the city and AHS say they continue to work on recruiting even more doctors.

“The second part of our physician recruitment and retention campaign just wrapped up in mid-March,” the city said in a statement to Global News. “We do not have specific data at this stage, but once compiled there will be a presentation this spring updating Lethbridge City Council.”

“We have recently interviewed another family physician for the city of Lethbridge and are in the process of setting up a site visit,” AHS said.

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“We are also posting five more family physician positions on DoctorJobs, which is our formal website for physicians to apply.”

Earlier this year, it was estimated 40,000 people were without a family doctor.

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