‘A GP For Me’ makes strides in EK

Team-based health care, doctor recruitment is making a difference for local patients, group says

Townsman Staff

Physician recruitment is proceeding apace in the East Kootenay, and other enhancements to local health care are ongoing, three years after the launch of a regional based provincial initiative.

In 2013, the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice, 102 physician members, Interior Health, and many community partners came together to work on the provincial ‘A GP for Me’ initiative.

The division wanted to improve local primary care and help more local people find a family doctor, so they got to work to do four things: recruit more doctors; help the most vulnerable people in the community get the supports they need; promote healthier lifestyles for community members, and maximize the time available for patients by making current doctor’s offices as efficient as possible.

“Today, we are proud to report that since we started this collaborative work, over 3,500 people living in our communities have been connected with a doctor,” said Dr. Todd Loewen, Physician Lead, in a press release.

Loewen said that nine new family physicians have come to practice in the region including six in Cranbrook, two in Invermere and one in Fernie.  Four of those recruited to Cranbrook have replaced retiring doctors, so their patients will continue to receive care. Other new GPs have been able to take on new patients.

“The need for new doctors is an ongoing,” Dr. Loewen said. “With continued funding from the Regional District of East Kootenay, our Recruitment Coordinator and partners will continue these efforts to attract new GPs to our communities to take on even more patients over time.”

The division hired a physician recruitment coordinator and worked with the City of Cranbrook, the Chamber of Commerce, College of the Rockies, and other community partners to create a Red Carpet Welcome Program. It showcases the advantages of living in East Kootenay communities to new doctors who are considering practicing here.

Recruitment is not the only way the division is improving the local health care system.  Over the past year and a half, three social workers, and one life skills worker started to work directly with doctors to help people get important social and community supports. More than 600 patients have now been connected to housing, transportation, and financial supports, as well as received counseling and assistance in navigating the health care system. In addition, patients have received support to learn skills to manage their own health.

“This team-based care approach is making a difference for patients, whose health and well-being would be at risk without these kind of supports,” Dr. Loewen said.  “It is also cutting down on patient visits to the emergency room; saving almost 7 emergency department visits per month.”

Activities are continuing to help more patients get access to primary care, and to lay the foundation for the expansion of team-based care in the future.

“The doctors of the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice are proud of the strides we have made with our partners, and we look forward to continuing to bring positive results to patients in our communities,” Dr. Loewen said.

A GP for Me is a provincial initiative of the Government of BC and Doctors of BC.

The East Kootenay Division of Family Practice represents 114 family doctors in Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie, Elkford, Sparwood, Golden, Invermere, and Kimberley, BC. The Division GPs work together with local community and health care partners to improve primary care in our communities.

Read more about the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice at www.divisionsbc.ca/east-kootenay