Rural doctors learn from Alberta disasters at Banff course

Rural doctors from across Canada are in Banff this weekend discussing disasters - and two recent examples in Alberta are on the agenda.

2014 Rural and Remote Medicine Course lets doctors try simulator worth roughly $500,000

The 2011 wildfire in Slave Lake, Alta., destroyed 40 per cent of the town and proved challenging for medical professionals, as one doctor explained Friday in Banff. (Canadian Press)

Rural doctors from across Canada are in Banff this weekend discussing disasters — and two recent examples in Alberta are on the agenda.

The Rural and Remote Medicine Course is run by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada. It gives rural doctors the chance to come together and share their stories of professional and personal challenges, including the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire and 2013 southern Alberta floods.

"We entered the hospital and there was thick smoke that was just descending all the way from the ceiling down and it was so black that you could taste it in your mouth," said Dr. Alim Nagji, who was finishing his medical residency in Slave Lake, Alta., when the massive wildfire burned through the town.

Dr. Kristine Woodley also shared her story of working at the High River hospital during last June's floods.

"As the water came up, we had to move the sandbags back until it penetrated the hospital," she said. "Then we were done."

The program is designed to foster stronger networks between rural doctors and their urban counterparts, as well as address common clinical problems and challenges in rural areas.

It also gives many people the opportunity to practice and prepare for emergencies they may not see very often.

"In rural Alberta or rural whatever, they don't see car crashes or really sick patients every single day," said Chad Hegge with STARS air rescue, which runs the portable, robotic patient simulator being used in the program. "This is an opportunity for them to practice in a safe environment."

The program wraps up Saturday.


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