The town will write letters of support for doctor recruitment efforts in Ponoka and a committee will be formed.
At their regular meeting on Nov. 9, council voted in support of drafting letters to the Minister of Health Tyler Shandro and MLA Ron Orr and to the University of Alberta, office of Rural and Regional Health.
The letter to the government was to help facilitate a relationship between the doctors and the province, and the letter to the U of A was to affirm the importance of maintaining the Integrated Community Clerkship (ICC) program.
The decision came after a presentation by Dr. Gregory Sawisky, who spoke to council on Oct. 27 via Zoom.
Three physicians have left the Battle River Medical Clinic practice in the last year: Dr. Brendan Bunting, who retired, Dr. Emma Curran, who returned to school, and Dr. Paras Satija because of government cuts, and Dr. Gage Seavilleklein has announced he will be leaving at the end of December.
“That leaves us with eight full-time family physicians, moving forward, with a significant number of unattached patients and continual pressures on us to provide quality care to all the patients in Ponoka, Ponoka County and beyond.”
Dr. Sawisky requested council write the letters and asked council to consider re-establishing a community-based physician recruitment committee.
Ponoka has received medical students through the ICC program, where third-year medical students are placed in an Alberta rural community for 42 weeks, and successfully recruited a number of them following their placement in the program.
In past years, Ponoka partnered with the Rural Physician Action Plan group to develop physician recruitment strategies.
Mayor Rick Bonnett stated Nov. 9 that the town has already written a letter to Shandro in the spring, on the request of Dr. Sawisky on behalf of the Battle River Medical Clinic, and the response was not very favourable.
“I’m totally in favour of sending another letter to the government I’m just not sure what good it’s going to do us,” said Bonnett.
He added council hadn’t sent one to the university before, and that would likely be more helpful.
Coun. Kevin Ferguson agreed that the letter the university had seemed to be Sawisky’s number one request as far as letters.
Bonnett was on the Rural Physician Action Plan committee in 2011 and volunteered himself to work with the clinic to form a short-term committee to work together on attracting doctors to Ponoka.
The mayor estimated that the committee could have a timeline of about a year-and-a-half, and meet every couple of months.
In previous years, the committee held events for medical students that would invite them to come visit the town for a barbecue and a tour and offered them town recreational passes.
“It actually paid dividends,” he said, adding that three doctors came to Ponoka from one such visit.
“We just need people pounding away to try to get some doctors in this town because there’s a lot of people without family doctors,” said Bonnett.