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Tag: Dr. Gavin Parker

Province to offer sexual assault care training for doctors and nurses

Tanya Fir, parliamentary secretary for the status of women, said last week that the province will cover tuition for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, registered midwives and doctors invited to take the Rural Sexual Assault Care program, an online course offered by Grande Prairie’s Northwestern Polytechnic. 

The 12-hour self-study course is designed to familiarize health-care providers with sexual assault testing and evidence (SATE) procedures and to build on the emotional skills needed to treat survivors. The overarching aim is to make SATE testing more available in rural hospitals so that survivors don’t need to undergo the procedure in far-flung cities.

“Every person who’s been sexually assaulted deserves access to care and forensic evidence collection, regardless of where they live,” Fir said. 

“Sometimes, in certain rural areas, there may not be health-care providers that have this training or are comfortable administering it,” she added.

Dr. Gavin Parker, lead physician at Pincher Creek Health Centre’s emergency room, said he welcomes the program’s intent, but cautioned that staff crunches are the limiting factor, not training gaps. 

Parker noted that the hours-long procedures sap vital staff resources because SATE kits are designed to gather evidence of a crime. 

“There’s a very strict chain of evidence that we have to follow,” he said, explaining that SATE procedures cannot be interrupted. The necessary examination is so intimate and invasive that Parker chooses to perform the procedure alongside a nurse, which takes responding nurses off the ER floor. 

 

Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek

 

Sexual assault often brings trauma that needs urgent medical attention, but Parker said evidence gathering isn’t a medical priority. 

“The more we can do on-site, the better…. But I can’t in good conscience ignore other patients in the health centre who might get hurt in the two to three hours it takes to perform the test.” 

Parker said he’s performed the procedure in small hospitals and will continue to do so when he can, qualifying that it’s not uncommon that survivors treated at the health centre are transported for SATE procedures by the nearest sexual assault response team, at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge. Sometimes, survivors have to drive themselves, he said. 

“If the province really wanted to be serious about this, they’d pay for designated physicians to be on call,” Parker said.  

The RSAC program is funded through a $1-million investment the province announced last fall. 

Participation is voluntary and the program doesn’t require a practicum, according to Fir and Michelle Wallace, Northwestern’s associate dean of continuing education. 

The program is set to launch April 3, according to Wallace.

A doctor in a white coat folds her arms while holding her stethoscope.

Doctor shortage to worsen at Pincher Creek ER, clinic

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.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

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.

Male with short, dark hair and woman with dark dark hair and cap, stand in front of an ambulance. Both are dressed in navy blue uniforms. Pat Neumann is the Pincher Creek fire chief and Sariah Brasnett is deputy-chief.

Wait times at urban hospitals tying up Pincher Creek ambulances

Increasing wait times at urban hospitals are delaying treatments for patients transferred by Pincher Creek Emergency Services’ ambulance crews and tying up paramedics, PCES Chief Pat Neumann told Shootin’ the Breeze.

Neumann said PCES crews have long experienced these delays at Calgary hospitals, especially at Foothills Medical Centre, which Neumann said handles most of the cardiac emergencies, advanced heart treatments and diagnostics, and complex traumas within Alberta Health Services’ south zone.

But similar bottlenecks have hit the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, which also takes routine and emergency patients from Pincher Creek and surrounding areas, and where Neumann said PCES crews have consistently reported emergency room delays since last summer. 

“Lethbridge is terrible now” for wait times, Neumann said.

“It’s to a point where, unless they actually are admitting the patient to the ER right away, (PCES crews) are typically waiting every time they go now.”

 

 

A return trip to Calgary will tie up a PCES ambulance crew for at least five hours, with crews spending at least three hours on trips to and from Lethbridge, the chief explained.

The department has two ambulances. When one has to travel to and from Calgary or Lethbridge, “That only leaves one ambulance in this community to do any other urgent transfers going out of this area, or to respond to any other emergency call,” Neumann said. 

Longer waits are the norm when urban hospitals increasingly provide routine treatment and diagnostics for rural patients. At the same time, Neumann said his crews now attend calls from town residents struggling to access primary care.

“We’re picking people up that are going to the (Pincher Creek) Health Centre because they don’t have a doctor. They don’t know what else to do to get the services they need.” 

 

 

 

Patients are showing up at the health centre sicker than they might have been if they’d had regular care from a family doctor, and the problem “compounds itself” as the hospital’s doctors and nurses scramble to fill the gap, Neumann explained. 

Six doctors now work at the health centre and its attached medical clinic, down from 11 several years ago, according to the clinic’s executive director, Jeff Brockmann. (Dr. Gavin Parker manages the health centre’s ER.)

Local ambulance calls have more than doubled since Neumann started at PCES roughly 20 years ago, with hospital transfers up by a similar margin. Crews that responded to just under 750 calls in 2005 were handling over 1,500 in 2018. Transfers meanwhile climbed from around 350 to just over 600 in the same period, according to PCES statistics. 

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

The town’s population held at around 3,700 for much of that time, but shrank to around 3,400 by 2021, according to the Government of Alberta’s online regional dashboard. 

Just over 25 per cent of residents are 65 or older — a slight proportional increase over 2016, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 census. As Neumann suggested, the town isn’t getting bigger — it’s getting older.

In response, Health Minister Jason Copping said the Alberta government is investing in rural health care. 

Copping said at a media roundtable Monday that the province had put up $1 million to explore options to train doctors at the University of Lethbridge and nearby Northwestern Polytechnic. 

 

 

“We recognize that we need to train and hire locally, and by getting those seats out in rural Alberta, the more likely that (graduating doctors) are going to stay,” he said.

Copping stressed that Alberta’s United Conservative Party provided many more millions in budget 2022, including the UCP’s new collective agreement with Alberta’s doctors. 

The province further hopes to attract foreign doctors by “leveraging immigration.” Seventeen doctors from outside Canada have agreed to work in Lethbridge, with some already working there. 

“I can tell you more is coming.… So, stay tuned,” Copping said.