It has taken considerable time, but provincial government programs designed to attract doctors to rural Manitoba have shown a dividend in Brandon.
Brandon University graduate Dr. Tyler Tegg is one of three new full-time family physicians who will join the current team of eight doctors at the Western Medical Clinic by the end of the year.
As we reported in Thursday’s Sun, Tegg is currently completing his residency with the Rural Family Medicine program at the University of Manitoba, and will become the first graduate of the program to set up shop in the Wheat City.
Tegg will graduate in August after completing his residency with the clinic, and then start taking patients as of Oct. 1. He will be joined at the clinic by two other new physicians from South Africa, a husband and wife team who arrived in Manitoba last December.
This is very good news for area residents who have been without a family doctor for a considerable period of time — with the pending arrival of the three new doctors, the clinic has opened up a waiting list for new patients.
Chronic doctor shortages are unfortunately all too common throughout rural Manitoba, and the search for new physicians — either homegrown or international — is ongoing and seemingly never-ending.
Virden Health Centre has dealt with consistent weekday closures due to a drop from five physicians to two, though Prairie Mountain Health CEO Penny Gilson hopes that by July Virden will enjoy more ER services when one doctor returns from leave. There have also been closures in Hamiota and Killarney, though more sporadically.
The health authority continues to use locum physicians to help keep ER services open in rural areas when local doctors are unable to fill in. But with doctor shortages prevalent throughout Westman, there are not enough locums to cover all the shortages in the region.
Though it would seem we’re going out of our way to point out the dark cloud in the middle of a silver lining, even the good news this week — four new international doctor grads have signed three-year commitments to remain in the communities of Minnedosa, Killarney, Deloraine and Swan River — is marred by the fact that in Minnedosa at least there are still concerns.
With the addition of Dr. Olagoke Owojori, Minnedosa now has three physicians providing both general and ER care. But for Minnedosa, that’s a skeleton crew.
“Only three physicians doing on-call is very tight,” Gilson said. “If all of a sudden one physician wasn’t available for some reason, we could face some disruptions. But for now, they are covering 24-7.”
And signing three-year terms doesn’t necessarily mean these new doctors will stay where they are after their contracts are up.
As we said earlier this month, we have to give credit to the provincial government for making concerted efforts to rectify the situation, including expansions in medical schools to train more doctors, accepting more students with rural roots who are more likely to work in rural communities, exposing medical students to rural practice and offering free tuition for medical school students who agree to work in rural communities most in need.
We are glad to see that these initiatives are helping somewhat, but it still seems like the province is attempting to heal an angry laceration with a small adhesive bandage.