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Letter: Olds doctor dialogue encouraged

Hoping to generate a series of question for the candidates in the upcoming municipal elections
opinion

I am concerned about the fact that no doctors in Olds are accepting new patients and there are very long lists of names of people who would like to have a doctor as their family doctor. There are long wait times to see any doctor in Olds.

In an email signed by Dr. Bessard (Red Deer regional director) and Dr. Hoffman (Olds director) they state that Olds has one doctor for every 672 people in our community. Where did this statistic come from? If this statistic was in any way true, surely there would be ample appointments at the clinics and the doctors would be fighting each other to get more patients so that they cold come up to the average of 1,400 patients per doctor and fill their appointment books.

In Olds there are at most 10 doctors prepared to see the public for appointments every day. Some days there are fewer than 10. There is not the availability on nearly 20 doctors as suggested by the region and Dr. Hoffman.

With these numbers being used by local doctors, the Red Deer region, the minister of Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS), there is little encouragement for any new doctor to answer ads to come to Olds as they are given these numbers indicating that Olds is far oversupplied.

In an email reply from Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, he says in part, "...Based on the workforce and population data AHS utilizes, there is no urgent need in the Olds community for additional physicians." Mr. Shandro is being fed a false and inaccurate ration of 1/670. Once again, where is this being generated? And by whom?

Most doctors who are willing to establish a practice in the rural area that has a hospital are also looking to have hospital privileges so that they can use the skills that they have developed to practice in a rural area. In my opinion, the local doctors who have privileges here in Olds have ruled that no more hospital privileges will be granted. I do not know of any other hospital of comparable size that has this rule. This rule surely discourages anyone new from coming to the community. This rule is truly short-sighted.

The Olds hospital would benefit from having two physicians working at the same time on certain shifts to avoid the long wait times. As well, shorter shifts would reduce the risk of errors and fatigue of the doctors on call. This of course would require more doctors to have privileges.

With the pandemic somewhat under control, patients will have more need of emergency services with increasing pediatric illnesses, athletic injuries, etcetera. More doctors will be needed. It is estimated that well over 10,000 people will have to move to Olds without family doctors before the authorities will say that another doctor is needed in Olds, using the current statistics as have been generated.

The rules for hospital privilege appointments needs to be followed. In an email from Mr. Shandro, Alberta's minister of Health, he writes "Clinical privileges are specific to the practitioner and to the facilities to which these are granted and cannot be transferred to another physician at any time." The public needs to ask if this rule is followed at the local hospital.

As stated before, I am writing these letters to encourage dialogue among the citizens of the Olds community. I am hoping to generate a series of question for the candidates in the upcoming municipal elections.

Please share your concerns on social media, write a letter to the editor of this paper and email me at gicgraff4@gmail.com.

Clarence Graff MD,

Olds