This is the most difficult and challenging letter we have had to write:
To the people we serve, we are aware of the overwhelming effects of COVID-19 and self- isolation on you, our patients. The effects it is having on your physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing are clear to us. We continue to have you at the centre of our thoughts and try to make decisions that are in your best interests. So, at this time, we need to advise you of some changes in the near future.
Through our previous virtual Town Hall, Facebook posts, and one-on-one conversations with you, we have shared our worries about the disastrous effects that the government-imposed changes could have on health care in our community. Rural Alberta has been particularly affected, and we stand in solidarity with our colleagues from Stettler, Rimbey, Sundre, Lac La Biche and many other rural communities to express our deep concerns about the grave impact of the government’s changes.
We appreciate all of you who have taken up the fight and written letters to your MLA and the Health Minister. We, ourselves, have had meetings with our MLA, Jason Nixon and Health Minister Tyler Shandro to directly discuss our concerns. We have offered solutions to this impasse, however, there has been no resolution. Unfortunately, the government does not seem to view family medicine as essential to the infrastructure of the health care system, and the health of society in general.
Over the years, we have worked with our Town and County to achieve sustainable health care in Rocky. We have recruited numerous talented physicians to the area, and currently have 15 doctors serving our community through the Rocky Medical Clinic. The government changes will significantly impact our ability to recruit new physicians.
Our greatest fear has been losing physicians from our community and not being able to recruit new ones. Now as a direct result of the government changes, that fear is becoming a reality, and some physicians have resigned.
We have struggled with deciding how to provide all the necessary services that we do. Most specifically, the government changes have impacted the ability to provide care at the hospital emergency and to still cover the expenses of keeping the clinic running at the same time. This is a direct impact for rural family physicians, and our range of services has not been valued by our government. As a result, our family physicians have had to make the agonizing choice of
where to provide services that would best meet the needs of our patients. This choice is faced by rural clinics throughout Alberta at this time.
Over the past few days, seven (7) physicians have given 90-days’ notice to AHS that they will be resigning their AHS privileges (working at the hospital) in order to spend the necessary time required to keep the clinic doors open. We intend for the Rocky Medical Clinic to remain open and remain staffed to the best of our ability. This is our only hope of continuing to provide the high level of care that our patients deserve. However, this loss leaves a huge hole in the ability for the remaining physicians to fully cover shifts in the Emergency Room (ER) and acute care.
Unfortunately, we anticipate a further cascading effect of loss of services in the future.
What does this mean for you as our patients?
- We will not withdraw hospital services during the COVID-19 crisis;
- We will attempt to keep the clinic running to provide the best primary care. However, the number of physicians will be severely reduced;
- We will continue to provide Obstetrical services to our maternity patients;
- We will continue to provide Surgical services to our patients;
- After July 31, 2020, AHS will be responsible for informing you of how the ER and acute care will be staffed in the absence of physicians for many shifts;
Thank you for the unwavering support that you have shown to the doctors of this great community. We will continue to update you throughout this unprecedented period.
Dr. C. Dowling
Dr. D. Dowling