Concerned Citizens of Slave Lake and Friends of Medicare are at the Legislative Assembly today to table a petition which asks AHS to reinstate their four physicians who resigned in December, 2013, citing patient advocacy issues. The resignations served as a catalyst for the community to take a stand on the lack of health care services which faces the Town of Slave Lake and the surrounding areas. Slave Lake had 13 doctors practicing medicine before the 2011 wildfires devastated the town. In the aftermath, five doctors relocated elsewhere. AHS opened the Family Care Clinic (FCC), staffed with seven doctors, four of whom were the doctors who recently resigned.
"The Slave Lake FCC, one of the first three pilot clinics, has been in operation for over a year now," said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "Today, the community is finding that the FCC and the hospital are competing with each other for resources. There is currently no formal process to measure outcomes for FCCs and how they impact rural communities and their existing health care facilities."
In Slave Lake, first-time mothers are considered to have 'high-risk pregnancy' and have to travel to Edmonton or St. Albert to have the baby. The OB/GYN comes to town once or twice per month, so the chances of being identified as a 'high risk pregnancy' early enough to reduce complications and be preventative are significantly reduced. Traveling to access health care services also carries personal financial costs. Paying for hotel rooms, transportation, and food while away from home all take a toll on families.
Slave Lake residents requiring diagnostic testing such as ultrasounds and MRIs must travel to Edmonton. In some cases, they then must travel to High Prairie to see the doctor who will be able to give them the results. Seniors face long waits for long-term care beds.
"The people of Slave Lake are encouraged to see that their municipal leaders are taking a leading role to push AHS and local PC MLA Pearl Calahasen to give them answers," added Azocar. "They want an immediate resolution to their health care needs. AHS and the Health Minister have not had the political will to mediate and remedy the situation between the physicians. Rather they pushed the doctors out and into other communities."
One of the physicians is now working in Kinuso and two are now working in High Prairie.
"Since suffering the devastating fire in 2011, residents of Slave Lake have been standing together to rebuild and to once again be the northern hub they used to be," said Azocar. "Essential basic health care services are vital to promote the growth and sustainability of this community, and residents want a clear and timely commitment from the Alberta Government to address the lack of access to services in this community the surrounding area."