Elkford and Sparwood are banding together to create a video to showcase the natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle draw of the area to help attract doctors and health professionals. Pictured: The mountains above Elkford. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Elkford and Sparwood are banding together to create a video to showcase the natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle draw of the area to help attract doctors and health professionals. Pictured: The mountains above Elkford. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Elkford, Sparwood aim to showcase area to entice doctors into communities

Both towns have earmarked $2,500 to film a promotional video to attract medical professionals

Both Elkford and Sparwood have earmarked $2,500 each to develop a promotional video to attract much-needed doctors to the two towns, which are currently under-staffed when it comes to healthcare workers.

Sparwood’s health worker complement is short by two full-time doctors, while neighbouring Elkford also has a shortage.

The Elkford council voted on June 14 to set aside $2,500 in funds and request Teck match the funding to help the town showcase what it can offer to working professionals, with Mayor Dean McKerracher asking Sparwood to pitch in for a combined effort by both towns.

Interior Health maintains the Elkford Health Centre in Elkford which is staffed by family doctors and a Family Nurse practitioner. Sparwood has the Sparwood Primary Health care centre which traditionally has a complement of three full-time doctors. The Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie is the main hospital in the region.

During discussion at the District of Sparwood’s June 15 meeting, all councillors indicated support for doing something to help raise the town’s profile as a desirable place to live for doctors, with the council unanimously agreeing to set aside $2,500 in the districts own funds to help produce a video for Interior Health (IH) to assist in attracting doctors to the area by highlighting the outdoor living lifestyle in the area such as back country, cycling, hiking and more.

During discussion, Mayor David Wilks highlighted the barriers that make it hard for doctors to come to the area, and the barriers that prevent Sparwood from having any control over the situation, pointing out that IH controls the process for the entire health region, and the hiring difficulties were similar across IH with nearby Cranbrook down by 11 doctors.

He also pointed to deficiencies in the Canadian healthcare system.

“If you’re a doctor in Alberta, you cannot practice in British Columbia unless you pay the (registration) fee. And if you want to stay in Alberta you have to pay it there too,” he said.

This meant that medical professionals from outside B.C. that wanted to work in locum (temporarily) in the Elk Valley were faced with fees and charges that dis-incentivize the prospect of working in the area, while there were no active incentives, he said.

While he acknowledged he was a little off topic during discussion on whether to support a video promotion, he said that “if (medical professionals) were educated in Canada, regardless of which university, it shouldn’t matter where you practice. You should be able to practice in any province you want.”

Councillors agreed unanimously to pitch in on a combined Elkford-Sparwood film that would showcase the natural beauty of the area to help entice professional workers to consider moving there after they are hired by IH. Sparwood also asked if Teck could match it’s own funds, as Elkford had also requested the same.

Any video produced would be given to IH and recruitment services.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the Elkford Health Centre did not have any doctors on staff. This is incorrect. The Free Press apologises for the error.

READ MORE: ‘We need to break down the boundaries’ for health care in Canada: Sparwood Mayor David Wilks



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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