Original Published 10:27 May 13, 2022

By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Alberta’s health-care system is not sustainable in its current state, Medicine Hat doctor Paul Parks said in a recent interview with the Calgary Herald.

Parks, who is also the Alberta Medical Association’s president of the section of emergency medicine, attributes the “broken” system to years of mismanagement by the provincial government, heightened by the pandemic. He believes medically uninformed provincial policies and funding cuts – both to hospitals and health-care workers – have failed to attract new physicians and nurses and retain others. Burnout caused by the pandemic further challenges healthcare workers and results in staffing shortages.

“Burnout is the highest it’s ever been and morale is the lowest,” Parks told the News. “That has not just been because of the pandemic; it has been the government’s attitude.

“(Government) is the only body not asking for front line expert opinion and not listening to advocates like myself and my colleagues… We’re trying our hardest to get through to the government and the policy makers (but) the government’s not listening to any of us, and we’re exhausted.”

While Parks says Medicine Hat has not been hit as hard as some centres, he warns if changes are not made, the health of Hatters and Albertans will be at risk.

“My colleagues across the province are sending me cases daily of near misses and really bad outcomes in the big emergency departments,” said Parks. “(Medicine Hat’s) overcrowding and being able to admit patients to hospital and ambulance – things like that – we have days where we have challenges but we’re doing OK. We’re not having the troubles and access blocks which are happening in Edmonton and Calgary right now – which is obviously good – but, continuing, we’re going to be having more and more difficulty… From what I can tell on our front lines, there is definitely going to be a problem with access to primary care in our community.”

“If things don’t change with our government, our whole province will be in trouble and Medicine Hat – because it’s a nice little oasis down in the southeast corner – will have its own challenges. As all the rest of the big centres are struggling to recruit, people will choose the bigger cities over the smaller cities and we’ll be suffering as well.”

Parks continues to speak on the issue as he wants Albertans to be aware of public health-care’s current state.

“We need the public health-care. It’s a public service which is rapidly deteriorating,” he said. “And so, if public pressure isn’t applied to the government to tell them it’s important, they’re just going to let it continue to deteriorate.

“Get talking to the government and let them know timely, safe healthcare and reasonable access is really important to you, and they should be respecting and valuing it.”

This item reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta