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Ridgeview cancelling evening walk-in clinics

In order to ensure our clinic remains sustainable and able to serve our rostered patients, our remaining physicians have had to review their ability to continue offering care to unattached patients and visitors to our community.”
Canmore Sign
Town of Canmore sign. GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – The ongoing physician shortage has forced cancellation of evening walk-in clinics and other changes at Ridgeview Medical Clinic – historically the only Canmore clinic offering a walk-in-style service for visitors and residents.

Dr. Andy Kirk and Dr. Jessica Lydiate will be retiring from their family medicine practices at Ridgeview Medical Centre, effective April 29, and despite best efforts, the clinic has been unsuccessful so far in recruiting replacements.

In an April 18 announcement to the Bow Valley community, Ridgeview’s physicians and management say there are many factors currently affecting recruitment of family physicians to Canmore and the province.

“The ever-increasing cost of living and operating a business in our community is a contributing factor; as is the absence of an agreement between the Alberta government and physicians,” states the letter to the community.

“In order to ensure our clinic remains sustainable and able to serve our rostered patients, our remaining physicians have had to review their ability to continue offering care to unattached patients and visitors to our community.”

Effective May 1, evening walk-in clinics are cancelled. On weekdays, Ridgeview will no longer offer a walk-in or same-say clinics and will operate primarily as a family medicine practice Mondays through Fridays.

In addition, same-day appointment availability for new patients is also being cancelled.

“We will set aside a small number of dedicated ‘same-day only’ appointments, which will be available to patients who are already registered to our clinic, including patients who no longer have a family physician at our clinic,” states the letter.

There will also be changes to Ridgeview’s Saturday walk-in clinic.

It will continue to be offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but as was traditional policy, patients must physically attend the clinic to register and/or book an appointment. Saturday appointment bookings will not be available by phone.

Appointment times will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with a maximum number of appointments available for the day.

“The Saturday clinic will be open to new patients, as well as those who have previously registered,” states the letter to the community.

Since 2003, Ridgeview has, for the most part, been the only Canmore clinic to offer extended hours and a walk-in-style clinic for visitors and community members who do not have a family physician.

“Unfortunately, with fewer physicians available – community-wide, not just at Ridgeview – the burden on our physician-owned and operated clinic to meet the extraordinary needs of our community is becoming unmanageable,” according to the letter from Ridgeview.

“Unfortunately, with the loss of two full-time physicians in April 2022, our remaining physicians are not able to fully support their family practice patients while continuing to meet the demands of the remainder of our vast community,” they added.

“Our hope is that this change will be temporary and that with the recruitment of new physicians, we will again be able to offer this extended service to our broader community.”

Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert said the decline in the number of physicians available in the Bow Valley is concerning.

“I attribute this largely, in part, to the high cost of living that affects attraction of employees and professionals in all sectors,” he said.

“It’s a priority of Canmore council to work to address affordability in our community.”

Ridgeview Medical Centre has had a vacancy it has been trying to fill since March 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were limiting factors in aggressively pursuing that in 2020; however, the Ridgeview physicians say their recruitment efforts have significantly ramped up with limited success since early last year.

The letter to the community says the cost of living and available housing continues to be a concern in our community, and unfortunately, additional barriers have arisen since the sudden termination of the contract between the Alberta government and Alberta physicians. 

“Physicians in Alberta are essentially contracted employees of the province; however, in community practice, they run their own business and are responsible for all of their own overhead/operational expenses,” they wrote.

“It is a reality we have heard from prospective physicians that the current political climate, lack of support for physicians and healthcare workers, and the increasing costs of running a clinic in Alberta, are all factors in their decision not to settle their practices and families here at this time.”

The Bow Valley has lost approximately eight family physicians since early 2020. 

“To our knowledge, there have been no permanent replacements secured for any of these physicians,” according to Ridgeview.

According to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), the number of retiring doctors has doubled in Alberta in the past two years.

The Bow Valley Primary Care Network, with the support of physician members, is also trying to hasten recruitment of doctors to the valley and find ways to help make this community more livable and appealing to healthcare professionals.

Residents needing emergency care are encouraged to visit Banff Mineral Springs Hospital or the Canmore General Hospital.

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