Posted on Jul 6, 2021
DOZENS OF RURAL COMMUNITIES HAVE GAPS IN HEALTH COVERAGE THIS SUMMER
EDMONTON - Tyler Shandro’s toxic relationship with Alberta health care workers has led to widespread gaps in coverage in rural hospitals and clinics.
“There is a critical shortage of frontline healthcare providers in rural Alberta, both doctors and nurses,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “And what makes this problem even worse is that when we raised it with Health Minister Tyler Shandro, he refused to acknowledge the problem exists at all.”
Yesterday, AHS closed six beds at the Rocky Mountain House hospital “as a last resort” for a month due to a shortage of RNs and LPNs. There are currently bed closures in Edson and St. Paul, and there have been intermittent emergency room closures in Boyle, Fairview, Elk Point, Consort, and Rocky Mountain House.
The Alberta Medical Association emails out requests for locums, or temporary doctors. During the summer of 2020, from July through September, there were between five and 14 gaps to cover. This year, that number has exploded to 142 gaps, in 32 different communities.
“When I first started practice my locums were almost exclusively covering for other doctors when they required time off,” said Dr. Parker Vandermeer, a Edmonton-based doctor who works exclusively through locum requests. “Over the past year this has reversed entirely. I now rarely cover for others, instead I go to towns to temporarily become an additional doctor in order to keep hospitals open and clinics running. When I do cover for others it is often last minute and in times of family or personal emergency.
“Uncertainty regarding the future of healthcare in Alberta, in particular primary care in Alberta, has caused trainees to look for work elsewhere,” Vandermeer said. “They worry about potential practice location restrictions, potential loss of support for physician mental health programs, and the impact that continued cuts will have on their patients.
“This loss of new grads is in addition to an exodus of doctors who find they can no longer work in the hostile environment created by Tyler Shandro and the UCP,” Vandermeer said.
On June 8, Shandro dismissed the critical shortage of rural healthcare providers as nothing more than doctors and nurses taking “summer vacations.”
“That is deeply disrespectful to the frontline heroes who have worked tirelessly to keep us all safe through the pandemic,” Notley said. “It’s that dismissive attitude that is driving doctors out of rural hospitals and giving new doctors serious doubts about their future in our province.”