Attract Quality Healthcare Staff to Rural Areas

Attract Quality Healthcare Staff to Rural Areas

32 have signed. Let’s get to 50!

Why this petition matters

Started by Elizabeth Tan

People in the city of Cold Lake in northeastern Alberta sometimes need to travel hours for basic healthcare. In the month of January alone, there were thirteen shifts left empty at the Cold Lake Healthcare Centre’s emergency room, the only hospital in the area. This meant that for extended hours at at time, there were no doctors available to attend to any emergency. Only 19 out of 24 beds in the hospital were available since last June due to a current nursing shortage at the hospital. 

This lack of qualified healthcare staff was made more obvious when there was no anesthetist over the Christmas holidays, sending pregnant women to Edmonton, a 3.5 hours drive away, to deliver their babies. 

The problem with attracting qualified healthcare staff to rural areas is not unique to Cold Lake, however, there has been little done to maintain a healthy pipeline of healthcare staff. This comprises family doctors, anesthesists, registered nurses, paediatrics, obstetrician-gynecologists just to name a few. 

While the Government announced a $6 million dollar package to attract family doctors to these rural areas, other healthcare staff were not included in this program and the funds are disbursed over a three year period. This meant that physicians will be incentivised monetarily to be in Cold Lake. This might result in attracting doctors who are keen to receive the incentive rather than a passion to serve the needy. 

While the financial aspect should not be downplayed, it should not be the sole reason or incentive that doctors practice in rural areas. More needs to be done. 

In the last year alone, I have known of women who had to travel to Edmonton away from family support, proper accommodation (having to pay out of their own pockets) to deliver their babies. Personally I had a close friend who struggled with excessive bleeding and was unable to find an obstetrician-gynecologist to evaluate the problem. Her option was again to travel away from home and family to Edmonton. 

The basic requirements of a well-staffed hospital to provide quality healthcare are severely lacking, the Alberta Government needs to do more to train, prepare, select and incentivise healthcare staff to ensure that the needs of rural communities are well taken care of. 

32 have signed. Let’s get to 50!