New physician opens up shop

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Dr. Hamza Elqasir settling in St. Albert for the long term

St. Albert residents looking for a family physician have a new option in town with the Sturgeon Medical Clinic which opened its doors last month.

Dr. Hamza Elqasir said after practicing for three years at Northgate in Edmonton, he decided to move into St. Albert to meet the demand.

“Many patients were coming from St. Albert looking for physicians, so we thought it could be a good idea to start practicing here,” he said. “It seems like there’s a shortage.”

He’s been practicing medicine for four years, with close to a decade of experience in his home country of Libya, and said he intends to transition to working full-time in St. Albert as soon as possible — he will still work out of Northgate in the evenings to accommodate his patients in Edmonton.

Elqasir’s office manager, Aileen Santos, may also soon be able to practice medicine in the clinic as well. She’s trained as a physician in the Philippines, and intends to write her Alberta accreditation exams in May.

One of the requests she often hears from new patients is access to a female physician, because many women feel more comfortable being treated by another woman.

“We get a lot of phone calls from people looking for female physicians,” she said. “There’s definitely a need.”

The need for additional clinics in St. Albert is well known to Dena Pedersen, the executive director of the St. Albert & Sturgeon Primary Care Network. With two prominent St. Albert doctors set to retire within the next couple of months, many will be looking for other options.

“This is good news for patients in St. Albert and Sturgeon,” she said. “Really, first the focus is on the patient and on access for patients.”

In the three years she has been at the head of the network, Petersen said there have only been a handful of new clinics opening, and in many cases the doctors in those clinics are only in this community part-time, alternating between St. Albert and other practices in Edmonton.

“There haven’t been many, whereas north Edmonton or south Edmonton may get a clinic a month,” she said. “I would say we have a more solid physician base, but we don’t have a lot of physicians moving in and out.”

Elqasir said he hopes to have a variety of specialists, including a psychiatrist, and endocrinologist and a female gynecologist, come in on Saturdays so patients can get more of their needs met under one roof.

In addition, he’s leaving the door open to adding more family physicians as demand increases.

“Our plan is to increase the number of hours,” he said. “Right now we’re still quiet.”

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Doug Neuman