Sylvan Lake sign at the beach 2022

Sylvan Lake sign at the beach 2022

Sylvan Lake council urged to boost efforts to get more doctors

Sylvan Lake and Area Urgent Care Committee says residents frustrated by temporary closures

Sylvan Lake town council was urged to step up efforts to recruit doctors to help fill gaps in urgent care coverage.

A doctor shortage has led to frequent temporary closures of the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service (AACS), which provides urgent but non-life-threatening diagnosis and treatment at the community health centre.

Most recently, AHS announced on Thursday the urgent care service would not be available Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for the same hours on Aug. 31.

Sylvan Lake and Area Urgent Care Committee chair Susan Samson made a presentation before council on Thursday, calling for the creation of a committee to attract more doctors to the community.

Samson says in a copy of her presentation that the urgent care service is a “vital support service in our community and area and is the first and the only place providing health care for those families without doctors, for those injured visitors, for those seasonal residents, for those injured after hours and for those suffering from the unexpected.

“The recent, numerous and unscheduled closures of the AACS have created anger, angst and hardship with our citizens and area residents,” said Samson, adding that to be effective urgent care must be available seven days a week 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. as had been planned. 

“Anything less is unacceptable to us, our community and our partnering communities.”

Town council is planning to gather more information before considering a motion at its next meeting.

Samson said a doctor shortage is at the root of the problem.

“We currently do not have enough doctors working within our community to cover our medical needs nor are there extra doctors in the surrounding areas to come in to work shifts at the AACS.”

She proposed the town and Mayor Megan Hanson lead the committee, which could also include local doctors, and representatives from Wolf Creek Primary Care Network, fire departments, EMS and surrounding communities.

The committee could also lobby the provincial government to recruit more health professionals, make it easier for them to transfer between provinces, expand the use of nurse practitioners, expand university health professional spots and look at bringing in more foreign-trained doctors.

The urgent care committee has already committed to using funds from next month’s annual Tim Hortons Smile Cookie Campaign, which raised about $15,000, to go towards efforts to attract new doctors to Sylvan Lake. The campaign runs Sept. 19-25.

Along with an annual golf tournament, the committee has raised more than $800,000 for the urgent care centre, including bankrolling a high-tech x-ray machine that was installed in 2020.

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