Physician recruitment and retention is an enduring issue for the upper Elk Valley – so much so that the Elkford and Sparwood municipalities each put forward $2,500 to create a promotional video to advertise the region.
“We felt we needed to try and recruit as much as we could,” said Elkford Mayor, Dean McKerracher.
The video was created by Interior Health (IH) using the funds from the municipalities, and besides interviews with local physicians that work locally, showcases the natural beauty of the area and the attractiveness for skilled workers wanting a more relaxed lifestyle.
McKerracher said that Elkford had long had issues with keeping doctors – and now was short nurses as well.
Since the recruitment video was released by IH, the Elkford community health centre has lost an emergency nurse, causing the emergency department to close. It is yet to re-open, but IH had committed to opening it as soon as they can find additional nursing staff.
McKerracher explained that while the Elkford centre had two full-time physician positions, they were usually filled by multiple doctors working part-time.
“In the past (Elkford) had five doctors sharing two full-time positions.”
Currently, Elkford has one permanent three quarter-time doctor.
McKerracher said that having multiple part-time doctors wasn’t sustainable for the community, and especially so because they were contracted through IH to do work in Sparwood as well.
“It’s not enough time for patients here.”
McKerracher said that with the recent departure of two of Elkford’s part-time doctors (which have moved to take on full-time roles in Sparwood), “there’s probably roughly about 1200 patients that don’t have doctors now here in Elkford.”
The doctors who moved to Sparwood didn’t take any patients with them, as the Sparwood positions have a full load of patients already.
McKerracher has been mayor of Elkford for 17 years, and said that this wasn’t the first time the town had been left in a vulnerable position due to doctors moving on in their careers.
“It’s a continuous fight for us and Interior Health to find somebody to stay.”
Mayor David Wilks of Sparwood said that he hoped the video would help attract doctors to the area.
“We’ve done so many things over the years to try and attract doctors and to keep them.”
Wilks said he believed this was in part because doctors looking for work didn’t know what was in the area – the beauty, outdoor activities and amenities of the towns.
Sparwood hosts a primary health centre with three full-time doctor positions. Currently, a half-time position is open there.
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