Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Not surprisingly, the recruitment and retention of health care professionals was the main topic of discussion at the May 2 meeting of the Lesser Slave Lake Health Advisory Committee (HAC).

There was also a presentation on the Alberta Healthy Living program and a plea for more public members on the group.

On the recruitment front, “we’re not leaving any stones unturned,” said Shauna Wallbank of AHS’s North Zone.

This was in response to a question about occupational therapists for Slave Lake, in particular. There are three vacant positions, for “the first time ever,” Wallbank added. Services are being provided on a contract basis by visiting practitioners.

The shortage of physicians in High Prairie and Wabasca was mentioned. Wallbank had a bit of good news in both cases. Two doctors are on their way to High Prairie. One has just started full-time in Wabasca, with two more in process.

It seems recruitment committees are becoming the norm in northern communities. One has recently been formed in High Prairie, the group was informed.

Taking the lead on it are the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County. The Regional-Tri Council Health Advisory Committee plays a similar role in Slave Lake. No such committee exists yet in Wabasca – at least formally – but there are people playing that role “behind the scenes,” said Anita Fagnan, who represents the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP), in the northeast zone.

Three reps from the Alberta Healthy Living Program (AHLP) talked about the program and asked and answered questions. The AHLP offers a variety of programs, including on the management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Weight management and supervised exercise programs are part of the picture.

Some of the programs are done online, which raises the question (it was raised) of how people with limited or no internet access can take part. Ernie Grach of Wabasca suggested college or high school computers might be made available. Another suggested using a ‘buddy system.’

“Great thoughts,” said M.D. of Opportunity councillor Robin Guild. “I know that (buddy system) works.”

In the ‘round table’ portion of the meeting, Guild spoke about improvements in the picture at the long-term care facility in Wabasca. He didn’t provide many details, but he did say “for the first time in a long time, things are looking pretty good here in Wabasca.”

Aaryn Lynham, who coordinates advisory councils for AHS, urged more people to join the group. She noted that a couple of recent additions from Wabasca was a positive development, but that Slave Lake and High Prairie only had one public member apiece. Those are LSLHAC chair Susan Giesbrecht and Lindsay Davies.

The next HAC meeting is on Sept. 19.