More tourists appear to be flocking to the Sundre area, perhaps due to more Albertans planning pandemic staycations. This is sparking concerns about fewer physicians at Sundre hospital. (Contributed photo).

More tourists, and fewer hospital physicians, are sparking concern in Sundre

Sundre mayor says, AHS has assured him health care will not be impacted

More tourists seem to be flocking to the Sundre area this summer — sparking some concerns about the local hospital losing half of its doctors, says the town’s mayor.

Sundre Mayor Terry Leslie said police in the region have told him the same or greater number of tourists are hiking, fishing and cycling in nearby forests and foothills.

He thinks this makes sense, as most Albertans are sticking close to home during the pandemic.

“I know there are an awful lot of RVs coming through,” added Leslie, who’s aware of inherent risks “whenever people are quading, backpacking, or on motorcycles.”

Eight million vehicles are counted annually travelling on Highway 27, which goes through Sundre.

Leslie said the town’s population is 2,700 and 8,000 people live in Sundre’s service area, so that indicates a huge number of visitors.

“The hospital has to serve a myriad of (patients). They basically have to deal with anything that walks through the door…”

This week, Sundre hospital lost eight physicians after doctors from Sundre’s Moose and Squirrel Medical Clinic followed through on plans to resign their hospital privileges.

They are protesting United Conservative government Health Minister Tyler Shandro wanting to renegotiate the province’s existing contract with Alberta’s doctors.

The health facility that handles everything from obstetrics to broken limbs, will now operate with only half the number of physicians.

Leslie said doctors from Sundre’s other clinic, Greenwood Family Physicians, are still continuing to provide hospital services.

Leslie maintains the contract dispute is at the provincial level, and is outside his control.

Having the dispute arise during the COVID-19 crisis is not ideal, he added, but Alberta Health Services has stated if any issues arise, “they will be dealt with.”

AHS stated on Thursday it “will continue to ensure that Sundre has appropriate AHS programs and services to meet the needs of the community.”

Its coverage plans include calling in locum physicians if needed. (These are doctors living elsewhere who will temporarily step in to fill a service gap.)

Leslie acknowledged there’s “a split in the community, where some people are wondering how is this going to work now. They are waiting and watching.”

“As for my opinion, I’m not concerned… I’m optimistic,” added the mayor, who is satisfied with AHS’s assurances that local health care will not be impacted.

Leslie believes Sundre residents respect the decisions made by doctors of both clinics.

“The doctors are respected for the actions they take. We know there is a certain business model here, and the need to keep afloat.”

The Sundre doctors were among the first to announce their plans to resign from the hospital in early April.

Doctors in Rocky Mountain House, Canmore, Rimbey, Three Hills, Lacombe and Ponoka are among those taking job action.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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