Interior Health CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny visited Sparwood, Elkford and Fernie as part of his tour and review of Interior Health facilities and services. Halpenny met with medical staff, elected officials and toured medical sites to keep in touch with Elk Valley doctors on October 1.
“(Physician) recruitment is a national program,” said Halpenny. “There will be new doctors in the Elk Valley in the next few months.”
As far as the need for more physicians in Sparwood and Elkford, Halpenny said, “It has seemed to stabilize. The success in physician recruitment is for two reasons. They are terrific communities that are not as transient as some. The second reason is the involvement of the community which is something you cannot underestimate.”
“We have great people and staff working in the Elk Valley. Working in rural health care is challenging and is different than an urban setting. “
Halpenny added that Sparwood, Elkford and Fernie are primary care centres with a full complement in Cranbrook. Construction of a new Intensive Care Unit will begin at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook in the spring of 2014.
“We have had excellent success recruiting new physicians to Elkford and Sparwood over the summer,” said Terri Domin, Community Integrated Health Services Administrator for East Kootenay. “Three new physicians have started in the last few months and we anticipate additional recruitment will mean both health centres will have full physician complements by the end of October.”
“We will have more specifics in the next few weeks but currently there are 15 permanent physicians in Fernie and five regular locums providing support when other physicians are away.”
There are two full-time equivalent physician positions in Elkford and three in Sparwood. As some physicians prefer to work part-time positions, the actual number of doctors in each community may be higher.