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Posted: August 3, 2013

Physician recruitment remains priority in Elk Valley

Elected officials in the Elk Valley continue to beat the bushes and cast lines in search of finding or landing doctors to locate to the area, while hours at the Sparwood and Elkford health centre emergency departments suffer from ongoing alterations.

KERHD vice chair and District of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher
KERHD vice chair and District of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher

“We are moving in the right direction and I am thankful for that but we are still fishing,” stated District of Elkford Mayor and Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) board vice-chair Dean McKerracher August 2.

Elkford has been able to recruit one half time and one full time doctor and McKerracher praised Interior Health Association’s (IH) recruitment office in Kelowna for their work.

District of Sparwood Mayor Lois Halko said recruitment efforts are starting to bear some fruit, with a full-time doctor slated to begin work in the area in September and a part-time physician is expected to begins sometime in October.

“That would bring us up to full capacity,” she said.

KERHD board chair John Kettle
KERHD board chair John Kettle

“Doctor recruitment is one of those things we need in rural areas,” said John Kettle, KERHD board chair, adding he remains worried about the region attracting doctors to smaller centres. “It’s not getting better – it’s getting worse in most communities” with a steady stream of schedule changes at emergency departments.

Todd Mastel, IH director, business support, told board members August 2, “There are many initiatives underway” to find doctors.

KERHD directors were hoping to receive a report from IH concerning physician recruitment Friday but summer vacation time nixed that from happening, Mastel said.

“We will work on having (report) content available for November,” he said, noting the next time he is scheduled to appear before the board.

KERHD Electoral Area A director Mike Sosnowski said that wasn’t acceptable.

“When we expect reports, especially when it comes to doctor recruitment,” he expects to see them – no excuses. “I’m really very disappointed and frustrated you have not kept that commitment to the board,” he said to the IH in general.

McKerracher said members of the KERHD will meet with the provincial minister of health and Premier Christy Clark, as well as other health officials during September’s Union of B.C. Municipalities’ annual general meeting.

All that said, Sparwood and area residents are again advised of an adjustment to normal emergency department hours at the health centre in next week given physician availability.

On Wednesday, August 7 – the centre will only be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Residents should take note of the following if they require care when their emergency department is closed:

In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Residents should proceed to the emergency department in Fernie.

If individuals are unsure about what services they require, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1. 
The toll-free line provides 24-hour, confidential health information and advice from a registered nurse.

“Interior Health regrets these temporary changes to usual service and will provide the communities with updates when there are changes to normal operating hours,” IH reported.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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