The doctor shortage in Cochrane has continued to shrink with the opening of several new clinics since the community was shaken by the closure of the Cochrane Primary Care Clinic in August 2021.

The newest is the Griffin Road Medical Centre, 239 Griffin Rd., which celebrated its opening on May 24.

Among the many who are glad to see the clinic opens its doors is local MLA Peter Guthrie, who says he now has a new family doctor after being without one for some time. It's something many Cochrane families have struggled with in recent years.

For the last two years, Guthrie's office has been working with Dr. Uche Nwadike, physician and owner, and his team to clear many hurdles to receive approval.

"We've had clinics that had been rejected for new physicians and the reasoning provided just didn't seem to jive with me," says Guthrie. 

Guthrie says he was told Cochrane didn't have the market to support more clinics, and he encouraged them to take another look.

"I was able to work with the Department of Health as well as AHS to have them reexamine that. In Uche's case, they determined there was a need, and so we were able to help it open."

When discovering Cochrane's primary care centre was closing and many long-time doctors were retiring, Dr. Nwadike, a Bearspaw resident, began putting the pieces together to open his own clinic here. 

"This is a momentous moment for us as physicians and healthcare workers coming into Cochrane," says Dr. Nwadike. "Our goal is to foster a culture of trust, wellness and inclusivity where every person feels valued and support, and we are hoping to build a long-term relationship serving the community."

Currently, there are two physicians on staff and two more will be joining them this fall.

Guthrie says Alberta has gained about 500 doctors over the course of the last year.

"I think around half of those, or maybe a little bit better, have been family physicians, so we are gaining traction there. I think our job attraction strategy is working. There was a lot of red tape that was getting in the way, and we've been cutting away at some of that."

He says the procedure being followed by some other provinces was proving to be more successful.

"Their process was a lot quicker than we were, so we've working on that and we're seeing the fruits of that labor."

Dr. Akolisa Ufodike, deputy minister of Alberta Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism, praised the efforts made to establish the clinic. He says 40 per cent of the international medical graduates who have come to Alberta in the last five years have settled outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

"This is one example of how we achieve that, and I look forward to the incredible things that this clinic will do in this community. Well done. I'm really proud of you."

Mayor Jeff Genung thanked Dr. Nwadike for choosing Cochrane.

"With the number of residents that we have in Cochrane that have reached out to me personally about the need we have for family physicians; you are fulfilling a void that we have and a gap that we have in our community. I thank you so much that and wish you all the success in the world in this beautiful facility and in taking care the health of our community, including our minister."

A Pharmasave pharmacy is an integral part of the medical centre.

"It is a very momentous day," says Hardik Patel, of Pharmasave Cochrane. "We know people are very keen on getting new doctors, so it makes it a very important occasion for everyone, not just for us."