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Hinton Healthcare Foundation | Facebook

Hinton, The Town Tackling Its Doctor Drought Head-On!

Facing a critical shortage of healthcare workers, Hinton citizens take recruitment efforts into their own hands

Recruiting new healthcare professionals isn’t something Albertans take on as part of their activities in a community.

However, desperation is driving the citizens of Hinton to do just that. 

Once home to a robust team of doctors and nurses, like too many towns, Hinton is now grappling with a significant shortage of healthcare workers.

It led the Town to formally declare a state of health care emergency.

This issue isn’t just local; it reflects broader challenges facing rural healthcare across the province.

“This problem is not unique to Hinton. We are hearing of similar shortages across Alberta. In Hinton, the number of doctors serving the community has fallen to the point of being unsustainable,” said Hinton CAO Jordan Panasiuk in a news release.

The Hinton Hospital | Town of Hinton
The Hinton Hospital | Town of Hinton

A Loss of Professionals

Over the past year, Hinton has lost half of its primary care physicians, leaving only seven family doctors—some of whom work only part-time. 

This sharp drop-off has dramatically strained Hinton’s healthcare system, and residents suffer.

People have had no overnight access to an emergency department since June 24th, which has faced intermittent closures over the last few months. The  Hinton Health Center closed down its obstetrics departments for a weekend.

Mayor Nicholas Nissen expressed his concerns: “We’ve hit the demographic cliff.”

“We’re losing access to primary care…losing a lot of access to the healthcare system because your family doctor is your gateway in.”

A Community Response

Hintonites have teamed up with the Hinton Healthcare Foundation to create a group of community leaders. Their goal is to make the Town an attractive place for healthcare workers to work, starting from the basics.

The group has called themselves the Attraction and Retention Committee of Hinton, or ARCH.

ARCH was formed as a sub-committee of the Foundation with representatives from the Town of Hinton, Alberta Health Services (AHS), local healthcare representatives and the Rural Health Professionals Action Plan (RhPAP) all at the table.

Co-chair Fiona Murray-Galbraith highlighted ARCH‘s mission: “We’re focused on initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to healthcare professionals, making Hinton an attractive place to live and work.”

For example, the group attends trade shows, hiring fairs, and other professional events to promote life in Hinton. Beyond attracting new healthcare professionals, the group also put efforts into integrating new recruits into the community and making them feel at home.

The efforts have the potential to help overcome the shortage of healthcare professionals. 

Still, as far as the Mayor is concerned, the province must also be on board for significant change to happen.

“How that [ARCH] will work, I’d love to say that I know. It’s still at the provincial level; the legislation’s not through. We haven’t seen all the regulations, but from an attraction and recruitment committee process perspective, I don’t know that there will be much change,” Mayor Nicholas Nissen told The Fitzhugh.

Members from the Hinton Healthcare Foundation and the Attraction Retention Committee of Hinton (ARCH) delivered some goodies celebrating Rural Health Week
Members from the Hinton Healthcare Foundation and the Attraction Retention Committee of Hinton (ARCH) delivered some goodies celebrating Rural Health Week | Hinton Healthcare Foundation | Facebook

Not Waiting

The Town Council has decided not to wait for Daniel Smith’s government to solve the problem. It is considering giving the Hinton Healthcare Foundation $500,000 annually for the next two years “to assist in stabilizing primary healthcare as well as attracting and retaining primary healthcare providers in the community.” 

Ultimately, even this locally organized stipend, if it goes through, won’t likely be enough without overarching action provincially.

As Mayor Nissan told CTV News, “We’re sounding the alarm. We are saying, ‘We need help. ‘ This is no longer business as usual.”

The Town also asks anyone impacted by a lack of healthcare services in Hinton to write a letter detailing their experience to be submitted via email at info@hinton.ca or in person at Town Hall, located at 131 Civic Centre Road in Hinton.

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