City Hall in Cold Lake – File Photo

Cold Lake City Council was presented with the results of the 2022 Municipal Census at its Regular Council Meeting held on September 13.

The Census found a total population in the City of Cold Lake of 16,302 residents, a four per cent increase or a total of 641 residents, over the population found in the 2021 Federal Census. About 49 per cent of residents live in Cold Lake North, with 42 per cent living in Cold Lake South and the remaining eight per cent living on 4 Wing Cold Lake.

The City of Cold Lake remains a young community, with about 23 per cent of its population aged under 14, with the median age group from 30-34. The federal government resumed its status as the largest employer in the community with 17 per cent of the population, while 14 per cent reported working in the oil and gas sector. Another 14 per cent of residents are retired with the next largest sector of employment being wholesale, retail sales and services at seven per cent of residents.

“The 2022 Municipal Census results confirm our suspicions that we are seeing modest growth despite a persistently slow and uncertain economy,” Mayor Craig Copeland said. “We remain committed to preparing for the increase in growth we know will come when certainty returns, while repairing critical infrastructure, helping residents access the services they need, and voicing our residents’ concerns at the provincial and federal levels.”

When council funded the 2022 Municipal Census, it also directed administration to gather information about residents’ access to healthcare, especially as it relates to access to physicians. Council’s hope is that the information gathered can aid its efforts to lobby the province and Alberta Health Services for better access to local healthcare.

“Our physicians are phenomenal and provide excellent care, but we’ve consistently heard that people are having trouble getting a doctor’s appointment,” Copeland said. “At the same time, it has been hard to get community-level data on this issue.”

Council heard several key findings from the four healthcare-related questions asked during the census, including that 6,504 people, representing 40 per cent of Cold Lake residents, do not have a doctor, while about 48 per cent have a family doctor in the city and another 8 per cent have a family doctor outside of the city. Of residents aged 25-29, roughly 58 per cent reported not having a family doctor.

Of residents who reported having a family physician, 40 per cent said it would take from three weeks to over a month to get an appointment, while 18 per cent said they could get an appointment within one week. Six per cent said that it would take over three months and four per cent of residents who said they had a family doctor reported that they were unable to get an appointment at all.

Out of the 7,889 residents who reported that they do not have a family physician, 3,134, or 40 per cent, said they have tried to get a family physician in Cold Lake without success. The main reason that residents reported they were unable to secure a family physician was because no doctors were accepting new patients. 6,819 Cold Lake residents, 42% of the population, have travelled outside of Cold Lake in the last three years for medical treatment other than appointments with their family physician.

“We will continue to analyze the numbers, but it’s no surprise that many of our residents feel they are being underserved by a system that has been under stress for a very long time,” Copeland said. “The issue extends well beyond Cold Lake. The COVID pandemic tested the limits of what our physicians, nurses and first responders could endure. We get the feeling that if we do not act fast, making progress in providing more people with meaningful access to preventative healthcare will be increasingly difficult.”

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