There is no shortage of reasons why a woman might prefer to see a female doctor. For some women the desire comes from a history of trauma, for others it is simply a matter of comfort.
As research in women’s health care remains underfunded and educational materials use male bodies as the standard, having a care provider with firsthand, personal experience of life as a female can make a world of difference for many patients. Unfortunately, for women in Lethbridge seeking a new doctor, the chances of getting a female primary care physician are slim to none.
According to the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta physician directory, there are 141 active family doctors in Lethbridge (the number rises to 291 when including specialists.) Of that 141, only 56 of the search results are female. Five of those 56 female family physicians deliver babies, with two additional results being specialists. Of all the doctors in Lethbridge, only 96 are female. As of 2022, Statistics Canada reported 52,973 women living in Lethbridge.
When looking for a new doctor, Albertans can consult the Primary Care Networks database (albertafindadoctor.ca) however in Lethbridge, the results currently yield one result and it’s for opioid dependency treatment.
The lack of doctors in Alberta has been an ongoing issue for a number of years now, but the added limitations for those seeking care from a female physician only contributes to the inequality in health care women face. According to a report released by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, just 3.4 per cent of funding for health care research in Alberta goes to issues of women’s health.
Additionally, women in Alberta are at a 20 per cent higher risk of dying or having hear failure during the five years following a heart attack. A post made by Sarah Hoffman, NDP caucus member, on Facebook on August 22 explains that Edmonton is also facing a drastic shortage in female physicians. The post describes some of the challenges Muslim specifically women are facing as their religion and culture often limits their interaction with males outside of their families.
As the issue of access to health care continues to be an issue throughout the country, it is clear that women, especially minority and Indigenous women, are facing increased struggles that cannot be disregarded.
Theodora Macleod, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald