City of Cold Lake Mayor, Craig Copeland says it’s embarrassing to have one of the biggest air bases in Canada and no doctors in the hospital.
“It’s kind of embarrassing that you have a community that’s got Canada’s largest Air Force Base and we got the oil sector you know, and you can’t even staff the hospital for shifts for locum doctors to come up and work,” Mayor Craig Copeland told Lakeland Connect in an exclusive interview. “We’ve been saying over many years that we don’t have enough doctors in Cold Lake, and it’s the responsibly of AHS to recruit the doctors in your community.”
The problem is not unique to Cold Lake, according to data from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, doctors continue to flee rural Alberta under the mismanagement of the healthcare system.
Registration reports show that 140 doctors left Alberta in 2021. The Central, North, and South zones all have fewer doctors in 2021 than in 2020.
Alberta’s NDP calls out the UCP on health care situation in the province
Alberta’s NDP says, the UCP’s tactics to force changes in the compensation of doctors are similar to tactics they have used against nurses, and other frontline healthcare professionals, including respiratory therapists and social workers.
“Albertans outside our major cities have less access to the healthcare they need because of the UCP’s ongoing attacks on health care,” said David Shepherd, NDP Health Critic. “Families are being left without a doctor, emergency rooms are closing, and expectant mothers are being forced to drive hundreds of kilometres to deliver their child because the UCP are driving doctors out of the province.”
A story Mayor Copeland knows all too well after engaging with Cold Lake residents about the issue.
“The province needs to change the incentive so that people are willing to come up to Cold Lake,” Copeland said.
The NDP says, “Not only is the UCP at war with doctors, but they are also attacking the entire network of healthcare workers that Albertans rely on for care. No wonder doctors are pursuing their careers elsewhere.”
“Albertans can’t trust the UCP with their healthcare,” Shepherd said.
Lack of appropriate resources
During the pandemic, Alberta Health started some work on addressing the health implications of long-haul COVID, while opening clinics in Calgary and Edmonton that offer some online resources. No resources were dedicated exclusively to children.
Albertans like Melissa Krohn, a mother in Cold Lake whose eight-year-old daughter contracted COVID-19 in the fall, and has been suffering from long-term symptoms since.
“We cannot keep waiting to learn as much as we can about the effects of long COVID. It is a reality for far too many Albertans and the longer we wait to find answers the longer they and their families will be dealing with the effects of the condition,” said Shepherd.
A scary thought for the Cold Lake mom.
“We tried to be very safe during the pandemic because my daughter also has asthma. When we got her positive result from AHS over the phone, we cried,” said Krohn. “It’s been a nightmare trying to get her help because there is a doctor shortage here. It’s been very frustrating. She’s on two inhalers per day. She’s missed many days of school. She has chest pains and gets long-winded. It’s tough to watch your child go through this and not be able to do anything to help her. We need this government to know that my daughter deserves to feel safe, and to know that she deserves access to care.”
Mayor calls on universities to increase enrollment
Mayor Copeland says the easiest way to solve this issue long-term issue is to improve and increase the amount of capacity at our Universities in Alberta.
“So that more seats are there for Albertans and get them in these classes,” Copeland said. “I know this is not going to be well-received but lower your standards in terms of marks and the percentage expectations of the marks. I know that some people that have tried to go through medical school in Alberta, it’s tough for them, the marks, the standards of what they’re asking are very very high which I understand but we need to reevaluate that so people are willing to come to Cold Lake as doctors.”