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Picture Butte doctor celebrates 10 years

Posted on June 24, 2014 by Sunny South News

It’s no secret rural Alberta communities often struggle with the delivery of health care. Rural physician shortages have been well documented, as has the centralization of services into urban areas.

But here in southern Alberta, there are a few success stories about how health care has been able to adjust and evolve in a few communities.

On June 13, Picture Butte celebrated a milestone, the 10-year anniversary of the Piyami Health Centre, which ushered in a new model of health care for the community.

It was a decade ago when the Chinook Health Region, before the days of the creation of the Alberta Health Services superboard, devised a plan for the creation of a one-stop health centre. The aging hospital had became a long-term-care centre, with a limited emergency department.

Dr. Riyaz Mohamed, who was recruited to the community in 1998, remembers those days well, and how the transition towards a different model wasn’t universally popular at the time.

“There was a lot of polarization. The thought of closing our emergency and downgrading to urgent care — during that time people weren’t happy with losing what we had in place.”

Mohamed added it was nurses who were at the centre of the changes, as staff was relocated to Piyami, where new clinic space and an urgent-care centre was created. For the physicians, however, the new set-up was just what the doctor ordered.

“I can only say as moving into Picture Butte from Africa, it was a very busy start,” said Mohamed, of his early years in town. 

“It was so busy that it was impacting my private life.”

Evenings and weekends were tied up, as the demands of clinical work and emergency-room calls made for a stressful existence. The restructuring of services eased the workload, according to Mohamed.

“It evolved into easing up on calls and we got good physician coverage from the locum services, as well.”

And with all of Picture Butte’s health services under one roof, Mohamed added there’s also an added convenience for residents.

“People with urgent-care needs don’t have to make an appointment,” he said of one of the benefits.

Picture Butte residents also have access to lab and X-ray services, along with public health, physical and occupational therapy, respiratory, speech/language pathology and dietician services.

However, Mohamed added those services are typically only available until 4 p.m., as after hours, residents either have to head into Lethbridge for urgent care or wait until the following day, if one of the doctors determines care can wait. So we are, in some ways, limited.”

That said, Mohamed is pleased with what was added was the best choice for the community at the time, in terms of being able to deliver a high standard of health care.

“I think so, I truly believe so,” he said when asked whether the changes have been positive.

“It has worked out very well, and there’s been a great commitment from the community.”

Looking back on the 10-year anniversary, the doctor said without the support of his family, his dedication to the community would not have been possible, as he also praised former mayor John Stevens for his role in the establishment of Piyami.

“He had a vision, and I’m very happy and satisfied that we have carried out part of that vision.”

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