Lack of GPs means patients come to emergency care sicker: doctor

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The Okotoks emergency care doctor says the shortage of GPs has created fallout in the form of later diagnoses and more advanced illnesses.

An Okotoks emergency care doctor says patients are coming to the facility sicker than ever.

Dr. Troy McKibbin, president of the Okotoks Urgent Care Physicians Group, said Wheel that approximately 70 patients walk through the doors of emergency care every day with increasingly serious illnesses. He attributes this to the lack of general practitioners in Okotoks.

“The biggest challenge right now is that there are no family doctors in town accepting patients, there just aren’t enough family doctors around,” he said. he declares.

“They are the backbone and the foundation of the healthcare system and unfortunately there are not enough of them and this work is very difficult and is not being rewarded appropriately for the challenge it presents and which creates fallout on emergency care with later diagnosis and more advanced disease as well.”

On average, two patients a day are transferred to facilities in the city for further care, he added.

As emergency care closures and hour reductions troubled the province throughout 2022, Okotoks Urgent Care was able to keep its doors open thanks to careful planning and execution by Alberta Health Services and the group of doctors, according to McKibbin.

The facility currently has 20 doctors, with two more expected to start in early October. McKibbin said an extra day shift was recently added to the schedule to accommodate increased volume that has presented challenges with wait times.

Some days this summer have seen insufficient nursing shift coverage, he added, but the management team has been working hard to hire more casual staff to fill the gaps, which he says will shrink to autumn.

McKibbin explained that urgent care centers are almost exclusively staffed by family physicians and that the state of health care in Alberta has made it difficult to recruit and retain new general practitioners.

Running a family clinic is like owning a small business and nonexistent increases in funding for primary care networks, inflation-based changes and regulated billing codes are part of the problem with attracting new family doctors, he said. -he declares.

The relationship between the government and medical professionals throughout the pandemic hasn’t helped either, the doctor said.

“The provincial government’s animosity towards family doctors — all doctors, but especially family doctors — has a lot to do with the shortage of family doctors in the province,” McKibbin said. “It’s made life for everyone in healthcare so much more difficult over the past couple of years when we didn’t need the extra challenge.”

McKibbin said he is open to discussions with the province and Highwood MPP RJ Sigurdson to improve the recruitment and retention of family physicians in Okotoks and across Alberta.

An in-person meeting between the group of doctors and the deputy has yet to take place despite attempts by the doctors, according to McKibbin.

However, if and when that time comes, the doctor said he would stress the importance of working urgently to reach an agreement between the province and doctors to ensure stability and improve recruitment in family medicine. .

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