March 3rd, 2024

‘Completely overwhelmed’: Family doctors in Alberta take concerns to social media

By Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press on January 31, 2024.

Twenty-four physicians in Alberta have taken to social media for 24 hours to talk about the pressures that are squeezing family medicine clinics. An exam room is seen at a health clinic in Calgary, Friday, July 14, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – One family doctor in Calgary says she doesn’t know how much longer she can continue to care for her 1,500 patients.

Another in Edmonton says she’s overwhelmed after taking on too many patients to try to help fill the shortage in family doctors.

A third in Leduc, Alta., calls the province’s health-care system a “real mess.”

The three were among 24 physicians who talked around the clock Wednesday to highlight pressures squeezing family medicine clinics.

The physicians were sharing their stories one each hour for 24 hours on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and on Facebook as part of a campaign by the Alberta Medical Association.

“I would love to continue to help my patients. I really care deeply about them,” Dr. Fauzia Khaliq Kareemi, who has been practising in Calgary for 19 years, said in her one-minute speech.

“However, the financial stresses are just way too much. My rent keeps going up and I have no, no help whatsoever from the government.”

Dr. Michelle Morros, the family physician in Edmonton, said in her video that she’s lucky to part of an alternate payment plan that keeps her clinic financially viable, but said she’s also stressed.

“Due to the shortage of family docs in the province, I have said yes to too many folks who could not find a family doctor and now I am completely overwhelmed,” she said.

“I cannot provide the quality of care that my patients deserve.”

Dr. David Smyth, who runs the Leduc clinic, said it’s also been difficult to recruit physicians.

“We’re caught trying to solve Alberta health care’s problems,” he said in his video. “We’ll give them a few more months but, if they can’t, I’ve got to get out of this. This is a real mess.”

The Alberta Medical Association said in a statement that it wanted to raise awareness about the financial and workload pressures through the personal stories of family doctors.

Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange responded on social media after the association posted the first five doctors’ stories.

“I want to thank these physicians for sharing their stories and I want them to understand I am hearing their frustrations,” she wrote. “We know there is an immediate need to address the concerns in primary care.”

LaGrange said she’s touring the province to listen to health-care workers, including physicians, to hear about how to improve the system and ensure Albertans get the care they need.

A survey of Alberta Medical Association members in mid-January indicated 91 per cent of the 1,375 doctors who responded were concerned about the continued financial viability of their practices.

Sixty-one per cent of the province’s family physicians said they’re considering leaving the Alberta health-care system either by early retirement or by looking for work in another province or country.

Alberta, like other provinces, is facing an acute shortage of family physicians, a problem that has a domino effect through the health system as more patients without primary care seek aid in crowded emergency departments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2024.

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