Red Deer has three recently arrived doctors who are accepting new patients — which is great news for Red Deerians who have long been seeking a physician.
After many months of showing that no local doctors were accepting patients, the Primary Care Network website now indicates that Ebenezar Medical and Walk-In Clinic has Dr. O Horsfall (a female doctor) and Dr. A. Onungo (a male) who are starting up a local practice and are taking new patients.
Also Springs Family and Walk-In Clinic has a new female physician, Dr. J. Uzojwe-Okechukwu.
Having these new doctors in the community doesn’t necessarily guarantee that patients can see them soon though. Only Dr. Onungo is booking appointments at the end of this month.
An office receptionist at Ebenezar clinic is telling callers that Dr. Horsfall is already booking patient appointments into next February because of the high number of local women who only want to see a female doctor. “She can only see 10 patients a day.”
And Dr. J. Uzojwe-Okechukwu at Springs clinic is now booking meet-and-greet sessions so that she and potential patients can assess each other to see if their relationship will work out.
Meet-and-greets are not uncommon as some doctors want to get a sense of a person and their medical history before taking them on, said Dr. Peter Bouch, who has booked these kinds of sessions himself when his practice was still accepting new patients.
He explained doctors are not obligated to see someone who is rude or presents a potential for a personality conflict or someone who comes across as unrealistically demanding.
While some new doctors try to balance out their practices by taking on a variety of people with lesser and greater health needs, Dr. Bouch said the College of Physicians and Surgeons frowns on doctors denying patients care because they are sicker or more high-needs, potentially taking up far more of their time than healthier people.
“It’s a bit controversial. The college says you shouldn’t do it,” he added.
With six local doctors already retired, or retiring in the near future, the only recourse for those without a physician is to go to a walk-in clinic, which leaves some patients concerned about the consistency of care.
Red Deerian Karen King said she’s happy to have a meet-and-greet session set up with a new doctor at the end of August. She’s been seeking a physician since April, when she received prior notice that her doctor would be retiring in June.
King knows many people are in the same situation. “Everybody is saying it takes a long time to find a GP,” she said.
A local committee made up of representatives from Alberta Health Services, the City of Red Deer, and local physicians has meanwhile been struck to try to attract and retain doctors in the Red Deer area. Dr. Bouch said he hasn’t heard if any more general practitioners are coming in the near future.
According to AHS, 42 new physicians have begun work in Red Deer since the start of 2022, including seven general practice physicians. Currently, there are 87 general practitioners (GPs) in Red Deer. As well, five new GPs are undergoing assessments as part of the process of joining the community.
To get a broader understanding of recruitment and retention issues, a staffing task force has been established in Central Zone “to identify staffing shortages, vacancy trends, and issues that may impact staffing, as well as identify and implement creative recruitment and staffing solutions.”