Even though it will be summer before he arrives, the town will have a new doctor setting up shop to serve the community.
According to Karen Sernecky, town councillor and head of the physician recruitment and retention board, Doctor Marvin Bailey is in the final stages of finishing his paperwork to come to Canada. He currently lives in South Africa.
“Once he gets here he has to do a three-month internship,” she explained. The unpaid internship will allow the doctor’s skills to be assessed before he is issued a medical licence to practice in the province.
Once that stage is done, the doctor and his wife will move to the community.
“People don’t understand how difficult it can be,” Sernecky said of the move. For new immigrants, who have no credit history and limited identification, it becomes difficult to do the most basic things, like purchase a vehicle, set up utilities for a rental or even get a cell phone.
With so many communities competing for new doctors, each community offers a compensation package, but these packages often are simply full of necessities for the new doctor.
“How can he be on call without a cell phone? How will he get to work without a vehicle?” Sernecky asked, rhetorically. “He can’t, so we help out there.”
Though Sernecky wouldn’t disclose the specific details of the agreement reached between Dr. Bailey and the committee, she did note that part of the package included finding a rental with utilities so the doctor would be able to move in and not have to worry about the basics.
Another doctor, Dr. Derek Sargent from British Columbia, is in the final stages of completing his internship here in Stettler.
“He’s expressed an interest in practicing here, though we haven’t set up a contract,” Sernecky said.
The doctor is hoping to get into an anaesthesiology program, and if he’s successful he’d be in school for another year.
“And then he’d come back here,” Sernecky said. “If he can’t get in (to the program), he’ll be here as a locum, I hope.”
While the doctor situation in Stettler is by no means “dire,” Sernecky said there’s a need for one or two more physicians to practice in the community.
“Everyone is very busy,” she said.
Between the shifts at the clinics, working shifts at the hospitals and overtime, the doctors in the community have hectic work lives. One or two more doctors would relieve the pressure, Sernecky said.
Additional doctors could result in patients being spread out a little between the existing doctors and the new, so wait times to get in to see your doctor might decrease.
Canada is a popular destination for doctors from other countries, especially South Africa, Sernecky noted.
“They are really impressed with how we take care of our elderly,” she said. “They feel so discouraged at home and want to work somewhere they feel they can make a difference.”