A family physician with enhanced surgical skills will start at Elk Valley Hospital in July, more than a year after the retirement of the facility’s only general surgeon, Dr. Colm Nally.
Dr. Kimberley Allan did her family practice residency in northern Alberta through the University of Alberta and is currently completing her surgical training in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, with the University of Saskatchewan.
She is also studying a Masters in Global Surgical Care at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Allan has worked in a number of communities in the Kootenays, including Cranbrook and Nelson, as well as Crowsnest Pass, and is looking forward to moving to Fernie.
“Fernie is a great place to live, with great mountain biking, great skiing and a very supportive medical community,” she said.
The recruitment of Dr. Allan comes more than a year after the retirement of Dr. Nally, who served in a solo general surgery practice for 30 years before retiring on May 31, 2017.
Elk Valley health service administrator Karyn Morash said Dr. Allan’s appointment would further enhance the services provided in Fernie.
“She will work alongside our excellent local surgical team and the skilled team of visiting specialists who are coming regularly from Cranbrook,” she said.
Elk Valley Hospital services nearly 15,000 people over an area measuring 8044 square kilometres and including Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford.
Its surgical program includes Cesarian sections as well as appropriate elective day surgery cases, such as hernia repairs and gall bladder removals, based on the skills and abilities of the operating room (OR) team, which consists of a surgeon, anesthetist and nurses.
An Interior Health (IH) facility profile shows surgical day care cases at the hospital have increased over the years, while inpatient surgery cases have remained relatively steady, with 46 cases in both 2015/16 and 2016/17, the majority of which were Cesarean section deliveries.
Morash said at this time, the hospital had on-call availability for obstetrics for the majority of weekdays (47 weeks per year) and every second weekend.
“We continue to actively pursue 24/7 on-call availability, it is a top priority for us,” she said.
“We are very proud of the physician, nursing, administration and community engagement that has supported our OR through the enhancement of visiting specialists and the recruitment of Dr. Allan, and will continue to build on this success through engagement with our East Kootenay facilities and through the Rural Surgical Obstetrics Network.”
Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) board director and Fernie mayor, Mary Giuliano, said the recruitment of Dr. Allan was good news for the region.
“For many years, IH and local doctors from the Valley have been working towards a replacement for Dr. Nally,” she said.
“Dr. Paul Michal has spearheaded the search and several years ago a professional recruiter was hired with some financial assistance from Area A, the three communities and the Hospital Foundation.”
Dr. Nally’s position was first advertised in 2010 and Giuliano believes a real or perceived lack of work for both young and experienced surgeons could be hampering the hospital’s ability to attract specialists.
Giuliano, along with the three other Elk Valley-based KERHD board members, would like to see the operating room made available on a regular basis and has suggested to IH that the type and number of procedures could be increased to sustain it.
“This however would impact the work at the Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, so it’s not likely to happen, however, another suggestion was to have Cranbrook specialists come to use the OR here and we have been told that to a degree this is occurring,” she said.
The KERHD board has also called for immediate 24/7 availability for obstetrics in Fernie.
“There should be around-the-clock ability to have babies born in Fernie at whatever hour of day and night as there was years ago,” said Giuliano.