This summer will see a focus on rebuilding the physician contingent at the Altona Clinic as three of the facility's five doctors will be leaving. Dr. Wasan Sulaiman, Dr. Moheb Basta and Dr. Meriam Basta will each close up their practices at the clinic starting at the end of June through the end of August.

"While we very much appreciate all of the work they've done in the community and how much they have been a part of our clinic these last number of years, they will be moving on from Altona," explained Clinic Manager, Connie Friesen. She noted each of the three doctors will be moving out of Manitoba. "They all have family commitments that they need to address."

These departures have actually put a plan to grow the clinic on hold, added Friesen. The plan was to renovate the facility in order to accommodate additional physicians, however, the focus will now shift to rebuilding the contingent. 

Recruitment efforts are already yielding results, and Friesen is optimistic the clinic will be back up to four physicians starting in September. 

Dr. Mehwish Rahman will be relocating her practice from Notre Dame, and an international medical graduate has been assigned to the clinic, both starting in September. 

"From that point on, we're continuing to have discussions with other physicians as well," said Friesen. 

Meantime, the priority will be to keep the hospital's emergency department open at its current hours of operation during the next few months. This, noted Friesen, will mean reduced appointments at the clinic, especially as the physicians take holidays or work to meet other commitments. 

"We're just asking for the community to be patient with us," she said. "We are trying to help everyone as best we can, but we are limited with what we can accomplish in the next several months."

To help take off some of the pressure this summer, Friesen hopes to access a few physicians that go around to different clinics and help out when they are short-staffed. 

"Some patients have probably met Maissa (Elamin). She is a clinical assistant who has been working with Dr. Sulaiman in the last month or so. She will also be helping us out, working with Dr. Sulaiman as well as Dr. Meriam Basta," added Friesen. "So, if you come in and see her you can know that she was a doctor in another country. She doesn't have her medical degree in Canada but she does come with a great deal of experience."

Southern Health-Sante Sud issued the following statement, in part, Thursday.

"We understand that care provider transitions can be difficult but want to assure you that we are working to minimize the disruption of services for the Emergency Department services at the Altona Community Memorial Health Centre during this period. 12-hour emergency department services (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) remain available and patients in need of emergency services are encouraged to call 9-1-1 if they need immediate support."

"Southern Health-Santé Sud would like to thank the community leaders, Altona and surrounding residents and provincial partners for their continued support."