Several members of Bonnyville Town Council, along with Mayor Gene Sobolewski, and the town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mark Powers attending the AUMA conference held in Calgary September 23rd-25th, 2015. Overall town council reports the conference went well, with a highlight being an extended meeting with the Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman.
Mayor Sobolewski noted that the meeting with Minister Hoffman went fantastic. They discussed various issues with Bonnyville’s health care system including expanding the facility. Bonnyville’s Dr. Petrus Van Der Walt accompanied town council in the meeting and was able to give the Minister facts from a doctor’s point of view, which really help solidify the town’s stance that attention needs to be given to the area.
The town highlighted their continues partnerships with neighbouring communities; St. Paul providing patients with mental health care and Cold Lake’s facility having a CT Scan. Although the partnerships are strong there are still many issues with the system; such as, travel for patients and wait times.
Mayor Sobolewski addressed issues with the EMS Dispatching and the Code Red situations the town and The Lakeland have been hit with. He also highlighted some positive news from the town, including its recent RPAP Award. The award recognizes Bonnyville’s Doctor Recruitment Program, RPAP supports Alberta’s rural practitioners, their families and communities in improving the quality of rural health care by offering comprehensive, integrated initiatives to enhance rural medical services, education, attraction, recruitment, and retention.
The Mayor reports RPAP is working on a video to highlight the work Bonnyville has done. Dr. Travis Webster is one of the physicians working with the Doctor Recruitment Program and has presented ideas for future growth which includes expanding the clinic, future hospital expansion, and even plans for road re-routing should an expansion come through. There’s work needed on the hospital before expansion becomes a possibility; including re-purposing of rooms; which comes with its own set of challenges with new rules and regulations needed.
The Doctor Recruitment Program is working on bringing in a new pathologist, as well as in the initial stages of recruiting an anesthesiologist, as Dr. Guy Lamoureux has expressed interest in retiring in the near future. The program plans to start an unique approach to recruiting Canada doctors. Much like the military pays from its recruits to go to post-secondary, the recruitment program would look at the same model to help students through school with a focus on rural medicine. When the student is ready for his/her internship it would be done at the Bonnyville hospital with the intention of when the doctor graduates he/she would practice in the town.
The Mayor felt that Bonnyville made a strong impression on Minister Hoffman, who stated, it was a “high priority” of hers to “visit as many municipalities” as possible. With that the town extended an invitation for the Minister to come to Bonnyville, where they foresee her flying into the airport, being able to visit the hospital in the morning, the senior’s Bonnylodge in the afternoon and fly home by the evening. The town feels it’s important for the Minister to see firsthand the issues that are facing the community, and since the Honourable Sarah Hoffman also serves as the Minister of Seniors it would be doubly beneficial for her to come.