An added part to the 2022 Municipal Census was to gather information about residents’ access to healthcare with a special focus on access to physicians.
A total of four healthcare-related questions were asked during the census.
Cold Lake council hopes the information gathered will aid its efforts to lobby the province and Alberta Health Services for better access to local healthcare.
Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says it has been hard to get community-level data on this issue.
“Our physicians are phenomenal and provide excellent care, but we’ve consistently heard that people are having trouble getting a doctor’s appointment.”
The four questions asked found a total of 6,504 people (around 40 percent of Cold Lake residents) do not have a doctor and about 48 percent have a family doctor in the city and another 8 percent have a family doctor outside of the city.
Among the Cold Lake residents who said they do have a family physician around 40 percent said it would take three weeks to over a month to get an appointment and only two percent said they could get an appointment within one week.
Another six percent said that it would take over three months and four percent of residents who said they had a family doctor reported that they were unable to get an appointment at all.
“We will continue to analyze the numbers, but it’s no surprise that many of our residents feel they are being underserved by a system that has been under stress for a very long time,” Copeland said. “The issue extends well beyond Cold Lake. The COVID pandemic tested the limits of what our physicians, nurses, and first responders could endure. We get the feeling that if we do not act fast, making progress in providing more people with meaningful access to preventative healthcare will be increasingly difficult.”
3,134, or 40 percent of the people who do not have a family physician say they have tried but have found no success with doctors unable to take new patients.
6,819 Cold Lake residents (42% of the population) say they have traveled outside of Cold Lake in the last three years for medical treatment other than appointments with their family physicians.