A medical clinic established in downtown Red Deer for 76 years will close at the end of June.
Only four family doctors still work at the Waskasoo Medical Clinic (formerly Associate Clinic) after three other doctors retired or moved across town.
Although the brown brick building at 4705-48th Ave. will continue to house a pharmacy, The Foot Clinic, and various independent practitioners, including an acupuncturist, dermatologist, psychologist and home care business, the medical clinic will be closed at the end of the month.
As of July 3, the four remaining doctors at Clinique Waskasoo—Dr. Shirley Hovan, Dr. Susan Konynenbelt, Dr. James McIntyre and Dr. Charles Metcalfe – will be moving to join other physicians working at St. Mary’s Clinic in Notre Dame Plaza at 2827-30th Ave.
A decade ago, there were almost 20 doctors at the associated clinic, but Dr Konynenbelt recalled that when various doctors left, their colleagues found it difficult to replace them.
Dr. Joseph Hopfner retired after 52 years in medicine last fall, while Dr. Jack Bromley is about to retire and Dr. Jeff Mulder moved to Horizon Family Medicine six months ago.
After spending his entire 31-year career at the Waskasoo Clinic, Konynenbelt has mixed feelings about leaving. “It’s a bit sad,” she said, “but what can you do?”
Konynenbelt is looking forward to working in a new space that includes off-street parking for patients, with a team of 28 — soon to be 32 — doctors at St. Mary’s Clinic. The team includes specialists, as well as family physicians.
The associated clinic was established in 1946 in a small space on Avenue Gaetz.
According to a column by Red Deer historian Michael Dawe, only two doctors practiced in Red Deer at the time – Dr. MacGregor Parsons and Dr. Charles Bunn – and the medical shortage was particularly acute during World War II.
Bunn (who from 1947 to 1949 also served as mayor of Red Deer) made recruiting new doctors an urgent priority.
A year after the war ended, Bunn founded the Associated Clinic, along with Dr. Gardner Craig, Dr. Jack Mitchell, and Dr. Bill Carter. All four doctors had served as medical officers in the Canadian Forces during the war. Dawe wrote that the clinic was “well balanced with representation by Army, Air Force and Navy veterans”.
During the 1950s, Red Deer became one of Canada’s fastest growing cities and the demand for more doctors grew. Other physicians soon joined the original four, and the Gaetz Avenue Clinic became an adjoining space at 4820 Gaetz Avenue (site of the current Bunn Building).
Although the associated clinic was moved to 4728 Ross Street in the 1960s, even more space was needed in the early 1980s when the clinic had 11 physicians and moved to the current brown building.
In 2011, when Dawe wrote his column, the Associate Medical Group (as the clinic was then called) was the largest family medicine practice in central Alberta, with 18 physicians.
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