Over the past few years during the pandemic Lethbridge has experienced a shortage of doctors. Lethbridge currently has no primary care physicians accepting new patients at walk-in clinics. By the end of 2021, approximately 45 per cent of residents did not have access to a family physician. That means there were about 69 physicians in our city practicing as a family doctor by the end of the year. 12 physicians are now practicing at the Bigelow Fowler Clinic in the south. Dr. Samuel DeWalle, a Lethbridge physician from the clinic, presented at SACPA on Thursday saying it costs $40 per patient clinic visit and emergency visits are 10 times that cost. DeWalle says the loss of primary care costs lives.
“It leads to more poor health outcomes, increases hospitalizations, and increases ER visits. When I say increases costs, I’m talking both financially and in years of life. If you are someone who is not having- a colon cancer screening, simple screening to do but you have to be in the system to get it done. You have to have a medical home that will do it. We know that appropriate colorectal cancer screening saves lives if you do it cross population. There are lives saved when we do it and do it well.”
DeWalle says the issues in primary care are provincewide and if these issues are addressed Lethbridge will be fine going forward.