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Rocky Mountain House residents say booking an appointment at the city’s only medical clinic has become too difficult, with some people with no choice but to go to Sylvan Lake or visit the emergency department for non-urgent medical issues .
Difficulty booking routine medical appointments was the top issue at an online town hall meeting organized for Rocky Tuesday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA).
“Seeing your family doctor has never been easier,” said Rosemary Brown, who lives in a city of 6,700 people 215 kilometers southwest of Edmonton.
“I think the whole business of making appointments has eroded over time.”
Brown and others who spoke at the meeting say they have been told they can only book appointments during specific times, and that calling on the first of the month is the best way to secure an appointment.
Rocky Medical Clinic currently has 12 physicians – 11 family doctors and another specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.
One doctor is leaving at the end of July and the other will leave at the end of August, business manager Kristen Penick told the News. He said the clinic expects three doctors to attend between now and November.
Penick said the clinic currently books appointments for two weeks.
“The ‘opening window’ for booking the next block of appointments begins every other Wednesday,” she said in an emailed statement. “Plus, there is no specific time window to book an appointment.”
In an interview, Rocky resident Becky Heimrick said that the process of booking an appointment is “simply bizarre” and that as a working mom of two, she thinks “being able to call the clinic and make an appointment is really great.” Will not have to be on hold for 45 minutes.
Heimrick said trying to call the clinic on certain days to make an appointment for that month’s schedule is “really stressful.”
“What if I’m busy with work and I can’t make calls? There’s a real time crunch when booking.”
Both Brown and Heimrick say the medical care their families receive when they see a doctor is fantastic. It’s just the process of seeing a doctor that is the issue.
Hilda Langenden, who has been providing palliative care for her aging husband, agreed. Speaking during a town-hall meeting, she said, “I have no complaints about doctors, but you can’t be cured.”
According to CPSA registrar Dr. Scott McLeod, booking practices have not been standardized because each medical clinic in Alberta is a different operation with its own unique needs.
“There is no standard as to how the practice should be provided, and I do not believe there is such a standard in any such jurisdiction in Canada,” McLeod said.
MacLeod and CPSA Council President Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti said CPSA is helping Rocky Medical Clinic address residents’ concerns by providing feedback.
Penick said the clinic would like to receive feedback directly from those involved, and the clinic recently developed a feedback form for residents to use to help improve the clinic’s practices.
As a rural community, Rocky Mountain House struggles with the attractiveness and retention of physicians following a physician’s retirement, something that has made booking appointments more challenging, according to Penick.
“We hope that with the recruitment of seven new physicians this year, patients will feel comfortable finding a new family physician and will be able to receive care closer to home again.”