Be a Med Friend Campaign

This Magazine – July-August 2005


By Shlomit Kriger

Residents of Deloraine, Manitoba are taking action against long hospital waits

According to Keith Dickie, residents of Deloraine, Manitoba (population 1,000) have to wait up to four months to see a doctor for routine medical problems. The 53-year-old financial advisor recalls an incident a year and a half ago when he had a small piece of brick in his eye. Staff at the local hospital wanted to send him to Winnipeg, more than an hour drive’s east, but Dickie demanded to be treated by a doctor in his home community.

“I fully expect that if I need open heart surgery, I should go to a major health centre,” he says. “But if I break my leg or arm, I would expect that the hospital could accommodate me.”

The trouble is, since this past summer, the local hospital, Deloraine Health Centre, has been staffed by a single doctor, down from two full-time and one part-time practitioners. Foreseeing their predicament, a group of 12 residents banded together to launch a unique campaign aimed at buying the community a family doctor.

The Be a Med Friend campaign asks 125 residents to donate $10 per month over four years with the goal of raising the $15,000 a year needed to support a medical student through his or her last four years of school. In exchange, the student would work for four years in Deloraine upon graduation.

“Our group believes that physicians are a renewable resource. We can grow our own,” says Dickie.

It’s an interesting idea, and not a huge financial burden on residents, considering most people spend more than $10 a month on coffee alone. Residents agree. In its first week, organizers signed up half the required donors, and they hope to reach their goal by fall.

In fact, the only opposition so far has come from the Manitoba government, which says the Deloraine campaign overlaps with a similar provincially run program. Organizers insist their program is unique—and the first program aimed at and run strictly by the public.

“If we do nothing, we fail,” says Dickie. “If we try and still fail, at least we tried.”