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Neerlandia native returns home to fill physician vacancy

Dr. Kevin Visser set to start seeing patients at the Barrhead Clinic starting June 1
Bernes cropped from skills day
Barrhead medical director Dr. Kent Bernes announced that a Neerlandia native, Dr. Kevin Visser would be joining the Barrhead Clinic. Here he is pictured addressing he students who took part in Rural Health Professions Action Plan’s Skills Day in Barrhead at a dinner in March 2019.

BARRHEAD-The Barrhead medical community will soon have another addition.

Dr Kevin Visser, a family physician, will be joining Barrhead Clinic starting June 1.

Barrhead medical director Kent Bernes, a doctor at Barrhead Clinic, said he learned that the agreement to bring Visser to Barrhead had been finalized via e-mail on May 14.

He added that Visser is married and his wife, Jennifer, is also in the medical industry, being a nurse, and that they both have a good understanding of the needs of the community, having grown up in the region. Kevin grew up in Neerlandia. Bernes also noted Jennifer grew up in the area, but wasn’t sure exactly where.

"He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that he is going to be bringing to us and we are just so pleased to welcome them both back to the community," Bernes said.

He noted it has been a long process to bring Visser to the community, starting in December.

"After receiving his application, we needed to go through the interview process with him and then we needed to go through things with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and then everything kind of came to a halt with the outbreak of COVID," Bernes said.

He added the Barrhead Physician Retention and Attraction Committee has been and continues to work with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to add to the number of physicians in the community.

In the last two years, five doctors have left the community, two specialists, one in anaesthesia and one in obstetrics and three general practitioners (GP), the last two in December.

Bernes noted the process of bringing in a doctor starts with AHS who determines if there is a need for more physicians in a community.

This is done through an impact assessment.

"They look at the demographics of the population and they decide how many physicians and their specialities," he said.

AHS then starts the process of recruitment by posting on the Doctor Jobs Alberta website.

Currently, there are three positions posted - one for a general family practitioner and two for general family practitioners with enhanced surgical skills.

Interested applicants then send their resumes to the physician resource planner, who then forwards them to the community’s AHS medical director who helps determine whether or not they would be a good fit for the community.

Bernes said he hopes to have another physician in place by the end of the summer.

"We do have a few positions available, but again, COVID has put a wrench into recruitment efforts so we will just have to see what happens in the future," he said.

Community COVID response

Bernes said he is pleased how the community has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, more specifically to residents efforts in following the guidelines put out by public health officials to stem the number of infected individuals. In late March, Bernes wrote a letter posting it on Facebook pleading with residents to adhere to the directives set out by public health officials to combat COVID-19.

He also said he understands people's frustration and those who might question health officials and government decisions on the restrictions and guidelines and when or if they should be lifted or to what extent.

"We are in unprecedented territory. There isn't a lot of hard science that says if you do this you will get this result," Bernes said. "It is evolving and there is no one presently alive in a position of authority who has been through this type of thing before. The last pandemic like this was a hundred years ago. Where we go from here, I'm not sure, but hopefully, things will continue to improve."

Barry Kerton,

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