Mayor, reeve pick up award
SANDRA M STANWAY
Representing their respective municipalities, County of Newell reeve Molly Douglass and City of Brooks mayor Barry Morishita were presented a Rhapsody Award by the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP).
Joint services was awarded in the Alberta Rural Community Physician Attraction and Retention category.
The presentation was made at the awards gala in Brooks following the Brooks-hosted annual RhPAP rural community conference.
Bow River MP Martin Shields provided a brief history describing how the municipalities came together to solve the physician crisis.
The crisis started in 2008 when the province dissolved the regional health boards leaving municipalities on their own to recruit and retain physicians.
In early 2009 with Douglass as reeve and Shields as Brooks mayor, they realized the need for doctors in Brooks and Bassano should be addressed regionally.
“Molly and I started talking: How can we work together to support this?” Shields said.
Upon the arrival of a prospective doctor a team was put in place to showcase the community and to answer questions. It was quickly realized municipalities had to do a better job to retain the physicians that were settled and to attract new doctors.
“We understand that we can’t all survive alone. We’re stronger together,” said Bassano deputy mayor Tom Rose in an RhPAP video presentation highlighting some of the region’s attraction and retention team members.
The city’s number of physicians increased from nine to about 15 while Bassano’s increased from one to three physicians plus a physician’s assistant.
“The cooperation with the County of Newell and the City of Brooks was very much a team approach,” said Shields.
Following up on the hiring, the team started to meet the physicians to see what they wanted or needed.
With the team pretty well organized the OB/GYN crisis hit Brooks.
Pregnant women had to go to another community for medical appointments and to have their babies.
At one point the mother couldn’t wait to get to Medicine Hat from Brooks and her child was born on the way.
“We ran for about 18 months (January 2009 to July 2010) without obstetric services in the community of 15,000 serving 20,000,” said Shields.
Not only have the missing services been returned to Brooks there are four physicians with surgical ability to do emergency C-sections and four who can do GP anaesthetics.
Now each day, a physician for low risk pregnancies and one for high risk are working.
As a result, Shields said, many physicians attended a meeting to discuss the issue.
“That has continued on.”
“We have been able to accomplish such a great deal. I think we’re just skimming the surface of what people can do regionally and I hope we can continue to accomplish for our health system and our residents,” said Douglass.
Morishita thanked the many health care workers who have been able to respond to the health care challenges by the region’s diverse population.
“They have adapted so well and they continue to make changes and to bring innovation to providing services to that very unique portion of our community,” he said.
The success of the area’s physicians and healthcare workers was also recognized by residents.
In the soon-be-released Grasslands FCSS Quality of Life survey 74.6 per cent of county residents and 77.3 per cent of city residents stated they were satisfied with physician access in 2017.
Those stats are up from 2013 when 57.8 per cent in the county and 58.9 per cent in the city stated they were satisfied.