Doctor shortage to worsen at Pincher Creek ER, clinic

By Laurie Tritschler
Shootin’ the Breeze Shootin’ the Breeze Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
March 28, 2023
Pincher Creek’s health centre will see a temporary reduction in full-time emergency room doctors starting next month, according to ER chief Dr. Gavin Parker.

The reduction will drop the number of dedicated ER doctors from six to four, with the shortage expected to last up to a year. Locums and doctors-in-training will pick up the slack in the meantime, he says.

Parker is one of six doctors independently contracted by Alberta Health Services to work at the centre’s ER at 1222 Bev McLachlin Dr. The doctors meanwhile operate the attached Associate Clinic, where each runs a family practice. 

One doctor is pausing her ER duties leading up to her maternity leave later this spring. The second will stay on at the ER in a reduced capacity as a locum, and will no longer work at the clinic. 

Parker said March 22 he hoped the first doctor, who plans to keep up her family practice until late May or early June, will make a full return to the clinic and the ER after her maternity leave.

“We have a number of locums that work at the ER. Some work here regularly — others episodically,” Parker explained, adding that he and his remaining colleagues hope to recruit more locums in the coming months.


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AHS, which functions as the province’s overarching health authority, runs a rural locum program for ERs staffed by less than four full-time doctors. Parker said he’d asked the health authority’s South Zone to relax that criterion for the health centre, which technically doesn’t qualify.   

Parker is the ER’s only anesthetist, with Dr. Jared Van Bussell serving as its only surgeon. 

Critically, Van Bussell is the only doctor at the health centre who can perform obstetric surgery. 

Van Bussell announced in January that he would no longer perform scheduled deliveries and routine C-sections at the centre after May 31, citing an acute, chronic lack of resources from the Government of Alberta. 

The remaining doctors at the Associate Clinic will take on their outgoing colleagues’ patients, according to executive director Jeff Brockman. 

The health centre serves around 10,000 patients over a broad swath of southwestern Alberta, according to Parker.

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