In 2002 the Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan created the RPAP Rural Physician Award of Distinction, which celebrates the contributions of long-serving rural physicians to the health and well-being of their communities.
While the Physician award recognizes the vital contributions of rural physicians to medical practice and their communities, it was determined that the role of rural communities in co-managing their local physician resources also needed to be celebrated and understood.
To recognize those rural Alberta communities that created physician-friendly environments, and who adopted a hands-on approach to physician recruitment and retention, the RPAP and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce teamed up to create the Alberta Rural Community Physician Attraction and Retention Award.
Launched in 2006, the Community Award recognizes rural Alberta communities that have developed innovative and collaborative approaches and solutions resulting in successful physician recruitment and retention in their area.
After receiving nominations from a number of rural Alberta communities, the City of Cold Lake was selected as the Award’s inaugural recipient for best exemplifying the overall attributes of successful community involvement and partnership.
Prior to 2006, Cold Lake had faced great challenges in recruiting and retaining physicians: The city faced the potential loss of Obstetrics and Gynecology services, and was severely short of General Practitioners. As a result, much of the community did not have a family doctor, resulting in emergency room waits of several hours while physicians laboured under enormous patient workload.
A community meeting spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce led to the formation of the Communities Leading Regional Recruitment & Retention (CLR3) coalition. The primary goal of this volunteer group was to complete specific tasks to enhance recruitment and retention efforts.
The Chamber of Commerce designated a staff person to be a Coordinator to assist prospective physicians and their family members with their needs. Local organizations and community members provided new arrivals with access to vehicles, housing, child care and spousal employment. Financial assistance and help with moving were also provided when required.
The City of Cold Lake also played a major role in the Coalition, providing representation to the steering committee, and financial assistance for its operations. Practicing physicians were included in community events and recognition of their work and contribution has been ongoing.
Following its inception, the Coalition was involved in several successful recruitment initiatives for health care professionals in Cold Lake including: three General Practitioners/ Anesthetists, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, a Diagnostic Imaging (DI) Supervisor, an X-ray technician, and several nurses.
“I believe the Coalition, has been the greatest determinant of success in physician recruitment in Cold Lake,” said Katherine Chubbs, of the Cold Lake Healthcare Centre in 2008. “Members of the Coalition have opened their hearts and homes to these people to make our community stronger.”
The Alberta Rural Community Physician Attraction and Retention Award was presented to representatives from Cold Lake at the Alberta Chambers of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Peace River.