A pair of doctors could be leaving the Rimbey Medical Clinic after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shirley Knauft, clinic manager, says the threats come in response to the Alberta Government’s cuts to physicians.
If followed through, the clinic would lose Dr. Cian Hackett and Dr. Lisa Boere.
Earlier this year the government ended the previous long-standing master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) and introduced new rules to take effect April 1.
Knauft explained if the cuts were to be changed the doctors would stay, but if not ultimately 1,500 patients from the Rimbey area will be left without a family doctor.
“I’ve been through this with doctors leaving five times already so I know what the impact is like on the clinic and on the patients and it’s devastating,” said Knauft in a phone interview.
She added the remaining doctors would be unable to take on their patients as their panels are full.
The clinic, she explained, would also loose its locum doctors that provide additional coverage when necessary.
“It’s just not a good scenario for anybody and we understand that they’re scared and frustrated,” said Knauft. “I want them to know how stressful this is on everybody, I mean, not just them as patients, but us as staff and the doctors.”
Knauft says she feels “awful” for the patients who could be losing their doctor as many of them have gone through it before as doctors left or retired.
Tina Matwie, 67, is the one of many who would lose her doctor in the scenario.
“Everybody knows that rural areas, little town of Rimbey, Bentley, Eckville, whatever, they have trouble finding doctors to come and work here,” explained Matwie. “I just want people to open their eyes and realize what we could lose.”
She added it’s hard on the people who keep having to get new doctors and it would be nice not to lose them.
Trying to find a doctor in Alberta is “going to be impossible,” says Knauft, as she thinks there is going to be a steady stream of doctors leaving the province.
Knauft explained there is the possibility of more doctors deciding to leave the Rimbey Medical Clinic as well.
The AMA currently has a lawsuit against the Alberta government and could result in changes to the cuts, although, Knauft says it will probably be years down the road.
Additionally, Matwie expressed her concerns for the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre if the town were to be down two doctors after the pandemic.
“Our little town will be affected by what is going to happen when, and if, this virus does go away,” said Matwie.
According to Knauft, the impact on the hospital is unknown as of right now, but it would be difficult for the remaining four doctors to work at the hospital and the clinic.
“There is a chance that the hospital could end up closing,” commented Knauft.