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City Council to keep promoting physician recruitment

Recruiting and retaining physicians and specialists to Lethbridge will continue to require collaborative efforts with the Provincial Government.

Lethbridge City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to allocate $15,000 from Council Contingencies for a refreshed marketing and recruitment campaign in partnership with Alberta Health Services South Zone, Chinook Primary Care Network, Economic Development Lethbridge, and other community partners.

The official business motion, co-moved by Councillor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel and Mayor Blaine Hyggen, has also directed the City Manager to update the Family Physician Action Plan to include completed initiatives. The updated plan will add new initiatives reflecting our current situation, including advocating for physicians in specialty areas, and exploring additional areas for partnership. There will be a report back to Council no later than July 2024.

“For the past two years, the City of Lethbridge has taken an active role in partnering and advocating for the recruitment and retention of family physicians,” says Schmidt-Rempel. “Having the appropriate number of family physicians, specialty physicians, and other key health care positions continues to be a priority for our City Council.”

Lethbridge City Council approved a Family Physician Recruitment Action Plan in 2022, which included partnering with Alberta Health Services South Zone, Chinook Primary Care Network, and Economic Development Lethbridge, as well as other community partners. It marketed Lethbridge as a great place to live and included a promotional video, as well as a national newspaper article.

As part of Tuesday’s OBM, City Council authorized the Mayor to write a letter to the Health Minister advocating for specific recruitment efforts in Lethbridge for family physicians as well as physicians in specialty areas such as but not limited to: anesthesiology, cardiology, child and adolescent mental health, diagnostic imaging, emergency medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pain management, and exploring additional areas for partnership.

“In 2023, we were collectively successful in recruiting 43 physicians to Lethbridge, 23 of whom are family physicians,” says Mayor Hyggen. “As a reminder, the municipal government does not have jurisdiction over health care in Alberta and this work has not typically been done by us, but Lethbridge City Council continues to support efforts to attract and retain medical professionals for the community.”

The City is participating on the Southern Alberta Medical Program (SAMP) Working Group that is working to build the framework to train physicians locally. In the Alberta Government’s 2024 budget, $43 million was announced for the University of Lethbridge’s Rural Medical Teaching School.

“It's a great initiative to train and retain doctors in southern Alberta and will build off positive numbers we have already started to see,” says Hyggen.

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