Several days after news broke that two St. Paul physicians had followed through on threats to resign and given their notice, Alberta Health Services issued an update for the community.
The two doctors who resigned, Dr. Vermeulen and Dr. Louw, said they would resign after the general surgeon announced he was moving to Cold Lake. A new surgeon for St. Paul was found with remarkable speed after the uproar, but the doctors still plan to relocate elsewhere in the province.
In the update, signed by Acting North Zone Medical Director Dr. Albert Harmse and Chief Zone Officer for the AHS North Zone Greg Cummings, AHS said “physicians are independent, contracted providers, and we will always do our best to support them in their business and care decisions, while also supporting local residents and ensuring their care needs are met.”
AHS assured the community the recruitment process to fill the positions, for family medicine with anesthesia skills and family medicine with low risk obstetric skills is already underway.
Both jobs have been posted to doctorjobsalberta.com, which has a total of five vacancies listed in St. Paul as of Dec. 22, 2020.
“We continue to work to ensure there is no gap of services in the area. We have the ability to bring in locum (or temporary) physicians and also to bring in physicians from other communities to ensure coverage at St. Therese – St. Paul Healthcare Centre, if needed.”
Focusing on the good news coming in 2021, AHS noted there is a general surgeon relocating to St. Paul from Saskatchewan in February and a family doctor expected later in the year.
“We will be sure to share more information about their arrival as it becomes available.”
“We also want to take this opportunity to thank our healthcare teams for their ongoing efforts to ensure care is available to local residents. Their work is always appreciated, but now more than ever their skills are invaluable in helping to keep Albertans safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has us faced with unprecedented times. We know this pandemic has caused, and continues to cause, strain on all healthcare providers.”
“Our frontline healthcare providers are truly heroes, and we want to thank them for their support and dedication as we continue to respond to COVID-19.”
“We also acknowledge the teams and leadership of First Nations, including Saddle Lake Cree Nation, who have done a remarkable job in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Saddle Lake Cree Nation declared a state of emergency for their community in March, and have been implementing heightened safety measures ever since. The preventative measures and safety precautions that Saddle Lake Cree Nation has in place during these difficult times can be found on saddlelakecreenation.ca.”
“We also want to thank everyone for doing their part and being diligent in following public health guidance and restrictions. We know it’s not easy, and with the holidays approaching, some people may be feeling some added stress about celebrations and what they will look like this year. Currently, the safest way to celebrate the holidays is with those in your immediate household – but no matter what, it’s important that we are connecting with those we love, whether that is with a Christmas card, a text, email, video chat or a phone call.”
“We must all continue to work together, and support each other every day, until this worldwide health issue is no longer a threat. With your continued support, we will ensure the needs of patients are met, now and in the future.”
“We will get through this together.”