|Herald photo by Ian Martens
A sign hanging in the entrance window marks the closure the Fort Macleod Family Medical Clinic located within the Health Care Centre, leaving the town with only one remaining clinic.
Lethbridge Herald with cp files
The Fort Macleod Family Medical Clinic has closed its doors, leaving the town of 3,000 with only one remaining clinic in addition to its emergency care services.
Alberta Health Services made the announcement about the clinic, owned and operated by Dr. Robert Simpson and located in the Fort Macleod Health Centre, late last week.
AHS is in the process of contacting the clinic's patients and Dr. Vanessa Maclean, the organization's south zone medical director, says the full impact of the closure can not yet be gauged.
"Our focus, initially, has been maintaining emergency services and making sure the ER remains open 24/7," she said.
"At this point we don't have any (further) predicted closures. The second piece is working with the physicians in the community to recruit. Our goal in Fort Macleod is to have five active physicians."
Numerous attempts by The Herald to contact Fort Macleod Mayor Shawn Patience for comment were not returned as of press time.
The remaining clinic, the Fort Macleod Medical Clinic, has two physicians.
One of the them is Dr. Steven Beekman, who says he expects to see an increase of people in the hospital's emergency department and believes the closure will have significant consequences on the town's population.
"A lot of people have needs that can only be met by a doctor that sees them on a regular basis," he said.
"Many have chronic illnesses. Many have prescriptions that need regular refilling, so that is going to increase our workload significantly if we can't find doctors."
The town had been working with either three or four doctors for the past eight months.
"At that number we're able to maintain service and have fairly adequate primary care access, but five would be ideal for maintaining a full range of primary care access," Maclean said.
AHS has already started a recruiting process and it will continue until they reach the target of having five full-time physicians for the town.
Maclean said they will likely not all arrive at the same time, but rather one-by-one during an undetermined amount of time.
"Ideally, we'd like them by tomorrow, but that's not going to be the case," she said.
"Basically it's kind of we work on the next one, then we work on the next one. We'll continue to work actively until we get where we need to be. We really are working in the here and now and really focusing on what we need to do tomorrow, what do we need to do next week and ensuring we've got that focus."
AHS is reminding residents that for life-threatening emergencies, they should always call 911 or go directly to the Fort Macleod Health Centre emergency department.