South Peace News
No one disputes having a female doctor in High Prairie is a vital need, but how far is council willing to go to support the idea?
It was a contentious question at council’s July 13 meeting after Brian Gilroy proposed writing a letter to Alberta Health Services [AHS] asking them to ensure the area is served by a female doctor and to reserve the said position.
The question quickly arose what would happen if a male doctor wanted to come to town but only a female doctor was desired.
Gilroy began debate by saying High Prairie is currently only served by male doctors except the female nurse practitioner.
“We can’t guarantee our nurse practitioner will be here forever,” he said.
Gilroy added female patients, especially those who were sexually abused, preferred to be examined by a female doctor.
“As a result, council should promote and request that Alberta Health Services ensure our region and others have adequate health care professions that reflect the needs of diverse regions,” he wrote in his proposal to council.
“Specifically, an adequate number of doctors that can accommodate medical examinations for those who have a preference on gender.”
In short, at the meeting, Gilroy said, “I want to make sure women have a choice.”
Judy Stenhouse disagreed saying if a qualified doctor wanted to come to town, allow him.
“Fill the position and get the physicians.
“I can’t support hiring someone based on gender,” she added. We can’t put restrictions . . . fill those positions.”
Long liked the idea of a female doctor saying patients “should have that option.”
However, he added another thought regarding hiring.
“It’s not because they’re a girl. They have to be qualified.”
Mayor Brian Panasiuk agreed female patients would likely want to see female doctors, but added they are rare and that AHS is always looking to hire them.
Each hospital is given a suggested limit on the number of doctors per population. Panasiuk was concerned a final position might not be filled if High Prairie had all male doctors and the last applicant was male.
“I think it’s a priority to make sure we have diversity in our doctor care,” he said.
Gilroy’s motion for council to write AHS asking them to reserve a position for a female doctor was defeated in a tie vote 2-2 with Gilroy and Long in favour, Panasiuk and Stenhouse opposed.
“I’m just very disappointed in this council,” said Gilroy, adding the least council could do was fight for the females in the area.
“It’s better to have a male doctor than no doctor,” replied Panasiuk.
“I’d like to have half and half,” he concluded.
Council did pass a second motion to write AHS stressing the need to hire a female doctor.
Council then passed a second motion to write Big Lakes County asking them to support their request to AHS.
Gilroy added earlier in the meeting that two female doctors wanted to come to High Prairie but were denied by AHS. He would not disclose details.