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Sask. town says the health authority hasn't staffed their once-busy clinic since the pandemic

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Residents of Duck Lake and Beardy's and Okemasis' Cree Nation are renewing calls for help as their doctor’s clinics sit empty.

Raymond Gauthier, chair of the charitable foundation that oversees the Duck Lake Medical Centre, said the clinic closed a few years ago.

“The clinic was always booked. They never had a shortage of patients, and it was a bit disturbing when those services were withdrawn,” he said.

He said doctors used to visit the community twice a week. Since the pandemic, residents have had to rely on emergency rooms or walk-in clinics in other communities.

“That's challenging for the people that need to use it. I mean, it's not walking distance anymore, it's driving, whether you go to Prince Albert or Rosthern,” he said.

Gauthier said the lack of doctors is also impacting the community’s care home, which is no longer accepting new patients. One third of its beds now sit empty.

Nearby Beardy's & Okemasis' Cree Nation told CTV News it’s having similar struggles.

“With well over a thousand band members needing a new doctor or just to have a physician on hand, it's quite alarming,” said Chief Edwin Ananas.

“Our physician services have reduced from two times a week to two times per month, so we've seen a significant decrease in services,” Heather Bighead, director of Willow Cree Health Services said.

The communities said there has been some progress since attending the legislature earlier this month.

“We're still trying to advocate for our communities, but the movement is in the right direction,” Gauthier said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority told CTV News it continues to work with partners to recruit family doctors.

Health Minister Everett Hindley said the provincial government continues to address the doctor shortage.

“There's incentives to help recruit doctors to rural communities, but we want to make sure that we can do everything we can to get them there and to keep them in these rural communities, so we'll keep that engagement going with Duck Lake,” Hindley said.

CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Rural and Remote Health but did not receive a response by publication time. 

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