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Red Deer residents struggling to find health care amid family doctor shortage


As the Alberta UCP and NDP pledge to improve access to health care in the province, Red Deer residents are struggling to find a family doctor.

On Friday, the Alberta Primary Care Network website showed no family doctors in the city accepting new patients.

According to the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons Database, four general practitioners in Red Deer are taking new patients without referrals. However, when called by CTV News Edmonton, all four said they were not.

Dr. Peter Bouch is a family physician in Red Deer. He has around 3,000 patients and said he can't handle any more.

"There's a lot of stress going around. There's a lot of workplace fatigue," he said. "I think it's going to get worse before it gets better.

"We don't really have a good lead on trying to find more physicians."

A spokesperson for the Alberta minister of health said last year that more than 250 doctors were added to Alberta's workforce, with 34 going to the central zone.

In the last three months of 2022, 14 doctors went to Red Deer, the spokesperson said.

"It doesn't mean that those doctors are necessarily working in family medicine and accepting new patients," said NDP health critic David Shepherd. "So, the reality is what Albertans are seeing on the ground and it shows where this government has failed."

One of the problems, Bouch said, is keeping doctors in the city once they've come in.

"Physicians come here to do their residency but are predominantly wanting to go to rural areas afterwards," he added.

With the lack of options for primary care, many residents have had to turn to walk-in clinics. Even that has proven difficult for some.

Lynn Van Laar is fighting a lung infection and said she was turned away by five walk-in clinics before she was able to get in to see a doctor.

"I'm going to persevere," she said. "But the average person might say, 'No, I'm just going to wait in [emergency] because then for sure I know somebody is going to see me.’"

In a Friday press release, the NDP said Lethbridge residents are also seeing shortages, with one in three unable to access a primary care physician. Top Stories

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