Alberta incentives attracting health professionals from East Kootenay

Interior Health comes to city about dire shortage of ultrasound techs in Cranbrook

Should Cranbrook be offering incentives to help attract and retain ultrasound technologists in the area? A letter included in the Dec. 9 agenda package from Interior Health’s director of diagnostic imaging for the Kootenays asked council to consider the idea.

Thalia Vesterback wrote that Interior Health has been struggling to keep the sonographers at East Kootenay Regional Hospital for several years now.

“IH is supplementing ultrasound service with external contractors, but this is not an ideal long-term solution,” she wrote. “We need permanent sonographers working and living in the community.”

Vesterback wrote that there is currently a world-wide shortage of sonographers, so countries and provinces are having to compete for the limited number of graduates from accredited schools, of which B.C. has less than the projected need.

“Given the success of community support to recruit other healthcare professionals in other locations, we’re hopeful Cranbrook council or some community groups may be interested in providing some form of recruitment and/or retention support for sonographers,” she wrote.

Mayor Wayne Stetski discussed the problem with Vesterback, saying it is serious.

“I was comfortable giving her materials that can help sell the area and sell the city. There are a lot of things that make this an attractive city,” he said, adding that anything further would have to come through council.

“There are some communities that have provided housing,” he said, as some communities provide housing for doctors.

Cross had a few ideas.

“It’s really tough. They would have to be long-term suggestions,” Cross said. “One was that if the college was ever to expand its residences, there could perhaps be a pod that could be made available.”

Stetski said Vesterback is also interested in working with community groups. In Calgary, for instance, there is a $30,000 signing bonus. Alberta also pays significantly more for the position.

“The sonographers that we’re training often choose Alberta just because of the better money they get paid,” Stetski said.

Cross said the area has many things to offer, and maybe more promotion is the answer, at least in the short term. She said she had a sonographer student from Victoria stay with her, who then decided she wanted to stay here.

Stetski said community groups with ideas are welcome to come forward.