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Medical Clinic’s response to a brick

Michele Austad

Mar 29, 2023

Response from the Manager of Crowsnest Medical Clinic

We understand that wait times to see a family physician in Crowsnest Medical Clinic (CMC) have increased again since January 2023. Wait times are affected by many factors including staff and physician availability and increased patient needs due to seasonal illnesses. Clinic availability is affected by phone or computer outages over which staff have no control. Wait times may increase more in the coming weeks as we implement a new electronic medical record to improve how we manage patient information.

As health care changes and the medical home model evolves, staff and physicians unfortunately often bear the brunt of patients’ understandable frustration and fear. 

Medical care is considered a right in Canada and CMC physicians and staff are proud to be part of your health care team. Patients are a key part of the health care team, which means taking ownership of your health by planning for things like medication refills, routine check ups, and screenings. The less notice you give, the less likely we will be able to work with your schedule. More urgent patient needs are prioritized on short notice and will delay routine care such as medication refills or that sore shoulder that has been bothering you for a while. By planning for these needs you also ensure that the emergency department is free to look after those who need to be there. When you fail to plan for health needs, our emergency departments become overwhelmed and run the risk of being unable to provide care in life and death situations.

With few exceptions, CMC physicians have chosen to practice comprehensive primary care by panelling or attaching patients. This means that each doctor has a list of primary patients with whom they share an ongoing commitment. As the number of physicians decreases, the number of unattached patients increases and demands on physicians can quickly become unmanageable.  

Family physicians are not required to see unattached patients in clinic or to provide “walk-in” service. For example, in 2022, when several family doctors left Lethbridge clinics, some clinics simply refused to see those physician’s patients because there were not enough physicians to safely manage the workload.   

Crowsnest Medical Clinic physicians did not exclude the patients of their colleagues who moved away. However, because recruitment lags behind the numbers leaving, the clinic was forced to put measures in place to deal with the overwhelming demand for medical care.  

Patients complaining that family physicians are failing the Crowsnest Pass is heartbreaking for CMC doctors who care deeply about their patients and this community.   

This is what these physicians are doing in the Crowsnest Pass: 

Working 50-70 hours every week , carrying panels of between 500 and 1500 patients. There are over 5,000 patients registered for care at Crowsnest Medical Clinic, about  3,000 have an assigned physician and nearly 2,000 do not. 

Providing pre and post natal care, delivering babies, caring for inpatients in acute and long term care, at Peaks to Pines Lodge, and in patients’ homes. Assisting Lethbridge surgeons in the operating room so CNP residents can have surgery in the CNP. 

Staffing the hospital Emergency Department 24 hours per day/ 365 days per year. 

Dozens of emergency departments and urgent care centres in rural and urban areas all over Alberta have experienced closures due to lack of physician staffing in the past year.  There have been ZERO CNP Emergency Department closures thanks to the local physicians who take responsibility for ensuring the ED is staffed This amazing record is also a testament to the commitment of local nurses and other health care workers who keep the hospital staffed. 

CMC physicians have employed from 15 to 20 local staff for many years. 

The clinic is always actively trying to recruit doctors for short and long term work in the CNP. Currently, CMC is leading recruiting efforts for three physicians.  Support for recruiting efforts is sporadic and inconsistent but the physicians continue to actively recruit all year round.  One of the physicians’ most successful recruiting tools is to provide learning opportunities for student doctors from University of Calgary, University of Alberta, and other medical schools. This has resulted in many former medical students returning to join the clinic post graduation and, in 2021, CMC was a named the best rural teaching site by the University of Calgary Medical School.  

Things patients can do to help ensure medical care is available when needed: 

Prepare up to 30 days in advance for an appointment for medication management.   Speak to your pharmacist if you will be short medications before your next scheduled appointment.  Controlled medications may not be able to have the prescription extended by the pharmacist.

Sign up for myhealth records through Alberta Health to view your own lab and X-Ray results. 

Consider booking a follow up appointment to review investigations prior to leaving clinic.

Come on time for your appointment and always call as soon as you know you cannot attend an appointment. No shows and short notice cancellations lead to wasted time and longer wait times for appointments. 

Access Telus Health Mycare App at for urgent needs 

Be willing and open to having medical learners participate in your care. 

Explore ways to help recruit physicians and healthcare workers to the community. Speak with your MLA and the municipality to understand the challenges faced by health care workers seeking to come to the CNP.   

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