After many years of enjoying a stable complement of physicians, the tables have turned for the town of Rimbey and the search is on for more medical doctors to meet the health care needs of the community.
By October 31, only four physicians will remain on staff to handle the medical needs of the community.
The decline in physicians leaves those remaining on staff with a huge responsibility as they strive to maintain the best possible care for their patients.
Drs. Paula Burke, Jurie deBruyn, Christine Ellis and Kristen Rylance will not only see patients at the clinic, but will be responsible for a host of other duties. The physicians will also be responsible for providing 24/7 coverage in the increasingly busy emergency department and delivering low-risk obstetrical care. They will also care for patients admitted to the 25-bed hospital and meet the medial needs of the residents in the 84-bed long term care facility.
The medical staff dropped to four physicians when Dr. D. Botha, who is now practicing in Rimbey, opted to set up his practice in the neighboring community of Bentley, as Dr. R. Smith is retiring.
Due to the high demand placed on the current Rimbey physicians, local residents who do not have a regular family doctor will need to find a family physician elsewhere by the end of October when Dr. Botha leaves.
Dr. Paula Burke said the shortage of doctors Rimbey is facing is an old problem for rural Alberta communities, but a new issue for Rimbey. She noted that not all physicians possess the desire to meet the broad demands of rural practice.
“Rimbey has been very lucky,” she said.
Dr. Mike Boorman, a long time doctor in Rimbey, retired in 2013. Following in his footsteps for their much-deserved retirements were Drs. Monica Wickland-Weller, Kim Adzich and Rob Nawrot.
Since that time, only two doctors have replaced the retirees.
Dr. Burke said Rimbey has relied on locums (travelling physicians) to help meet its health care needs. However, at this time there are no locums available and the permanent physicians practice sizes are at or have exceeded their maximum.
Peggy Makofka who sits on an ad hoc committee formed to address the physician recruitment situation in Rimbey said there has been some interest expressed in setting up practice in Rimbey by a couple of physicians. The committee is planning a social event to encourage these physicians to consider Rimbey as a community of choice for setting up a medical practice and raising a family.
Dr. Burke said staff at Rimbey Medical Clinic along with Alberta Health Services and the newly formed local Attraction and Retention committee are working very hard to recruit new physicians.
And while the search is on, the community can be assured the physicians on staff will provide the best care possible for their patients.