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City of Cold Lake growing but doctor shortage remains

About 40 per cent of residents in the City of Cold Lake do not have a family doctor.

COLD LAKE - The City of Cold Lake is growing, according to the latest municipal census.

On Sept. 13, City of Cold Lake council was presented with results of the 2022 Municipal Census at its last regular council meeting. The census found a total population in the City of Cold Lake of 16,302 residents, which represents a four per cent increase - or a total of 641 residents - over the population found in the 2021 Federal Census.

“The 2022 Municipal Census results confirm our suspicions that we are seeing modest growth despite a persistently slow and uncertain economy,” Mayor Craig Copeland said. “We remain committed to preparing for the increase in growth we know will come when certainty returns, while repairing critical infrastructure, helping residents access the services they need, and voicing our residents’ concerns at the provincial and federal levels.”

According to information released by the City of Cold Lake, “About 49 per cent of residents live in Cold Lake North, with 42 per cent living in Cold Lake South and the remaining eight per cent living on 4 Wing Cold Lake.”

Cold Lake also remains a young community, with the median age group being 30-34 years old.

The census also found that the federal government is the largest employer in the community, with 17 per cent of the population saying they are employed by the federal government. The oil and gas sector also continues to play a major role in the community, with 14 per cent of the population reportedly working in the sector.

Fourteen per cent of residents in Cold Lake are retired, according to the census.

Health care

When council agreed to proceed with a municipal census, councillors also directed administration to gather information about access to healthcare, “especially as it relates to access to physicians.”

Council’s intention was to gather information in order to lobby the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services for better access to local healthcare.

“Our physicians are phenomenal and provide excellent care, but we’ve consistently heard that people are having trouble getting a doctor’s appointment,” said the mayor. “At the same time, it has been hard to get community-level data on this issue.”

According to the results from the census, 40 per cent of Cold Lake residents do not have a doctor.

While 48 per cent of residents do have a doctor within the city, there is an additional eight per cent who have a family doctor located outside of the city. 

“Of residents who reported having a family physician, 40 per cent said it would take from three weeks to over a month to get an appointment, while 18 per cent said they could get an appointment within one week. Six per cent said that it would take over three months and four per cent of residents who said they had a family doctor reported that they were unable to get an appointment at all,” according to information from the City of Cold Lake. 

The number one reason residents reported they were unable to secure a family physician was because no doctors were accepting new patients in the community.

“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,” said Copeland.

“The issue extends well beyond Cold Lake... 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.”