Doctor shortage needs community response

About 20% of Cranbrook's residents don't have a family doctor; there are no easy answers, and the solution depends on the whole community

Recruiting new family doctors to Cranbrook is a task that requires the whole community to participate, health care professionals are urging.

Three people from the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice spoke at a Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday, June 18 about efforts to fill vacant family doctor position in Cranbrook.

Dr. Greg Andreas, a family physician at the F.W. Green Clinic, told the gathered business people that there are close to 4,000 people in Cranbrook who don’t have a family doctor.

According to B.C. Stats, Cranbrook’s population is between 19,000 and 20,000 people, meaning that roughly 20 per cent of the city’s residents don’t have access to a family doctor.

The shortage of family doctors affects the entire community, explained Jo Ann Lamb, lead for the A GP For Me Initiative by the Division of Family Practice.

“There are impacts in many areas,” said Lamb. “Family physicians will continue to be overtaxed and their job satisfaction may go down. People will continue to go without longitudinal care and relationship with a physician, so they have fragmented care. And there is an economic impact on a community that people may consider not coming to because there is not enough health care available to them.”

Meanwhile, as reported in the Townsman on Monday, June 16, doctors in the hospital emergency department are also increasingly overtaxed as those orphaned patients are forced into the hospital for care, which is not ideal care for the patient.

“We have complaints from other colleagues — quite rightly so — that they are being overused in the hospital,” said Dr. Andreas. “We understand that. A patient needs care; they are going to look for some way of obtaining that care. We have to support them in that. However, we also have to support them towards a better line of care.”

The common suggestion of opening a walk-in clinic in Cranbrook would not solve the problem, Dr. Andreas went on.

“A lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you just get a walk-in clinic?’ We need physicians for that walk-in clinic,” he said. “(In existing clinics) we’ve got space; we need the physician to develop those relationships so (patients) don’t have to go to emergency at two in the morning for something that has been troubling them for three or four weeks because they can’t get in to see the GPs, who are stressed already.”

Now, community partners in Cranbrook are putting their heads together to come up with ways to recruit GPs to fill at least five vacant positions.

Family doctors, along with representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the College of the Rockies, Interior Health, the City of Cranbrook and the Regional District of East Kootenay, have formed a task force to work towards solving the doctor shortage.

Recently, the group rolled out the red carpet for one physician from Canada’s east coast who is considering a move to Cranbrook. After speaking to local GPs, the physician was given a tour of Cranbrook by a city councillor, before meeting with business leaders at a special luncheon.

There’s no word yet on whether the doctor has decided to move to Cranbrook.

Lamb said that doctors move to a community for many reasons.

“The fact is: physicians do not come to a community just to work. They come to a community to live and possibly raise a family,” said Lamb. “What’s important to physicians when they are relocating is: is there work for their spouse? Often that is the biggest barrier to somebody coming to a community; if their spouse cannot find work then they will look elsewhere. Schools are very important, and other amenities, recreation, etc, in the community are very important to their decision on where they will go.”

Dr. Andreas added that providing work-life balance for a physician often means they stay for a long time.

“If the partner is happy, the children are happy, and the balance of life is good, the person is ours. If we can get someone here and they are happy, we’ve got someone who is often here for 20, 30 years. That’s an incredible contribution to the community medically.”

Cranbrook is far from the only community experiencing a doctor shortage, and we are competing with other communities around the world to recruit family physicians.

“It’s a human resource issue for the whole world. We are in competition with Australia, we are in competition with the United States, and we are in competition with other towns in Canada and British Columbia. So we just have to get used to that. Our patients are basically vying for the medical attention of physicians from just about anywhere else in the world,” said Dr. Andreas.

Lamb said that there is a cash bonus for physicians who decide to move to Cranbrook. But other communities have larger incentives.

“One community built a house for physicians to live in. Sometimes the community puts together a cash incentive,” she said.

With this level of competition, making the physician feel welcome and fulfilled here is vital, she went on.

“What is most important we feel is that the physician finds the right fit for them, in not only the work but in the community. That way they will stay.”

Dr. Andreas called on the entire Cranbrook community to come together to entice physicians into the area.

“If you have a contact, talk up Cranbrook. Tell them about the fantastic skiing. Tell them about the fantastic golfing, trout fishing. Invite them out. Any of the clinics that have space in them would be only happy to tell them about the business plan in each clinic,” he said.

“If we can approach someone and say, ‘This is what the physicians are doing, and this is what the community is busy doing,’ the physician’s lights go on. I can only see that happening for people who want to move here if we can say it’s a dynamic situation with the medical and wellness of the community. Because we can provide medical care; you guys contribute significantly to the overall wellness of the community.”

As well as efforts to bring new doctors to Cranbrook, the GP For Me program is working on long-term plans to avoid landing in the same situation again in the future.

“We need to look after what’s going on now but we also need to develop that strategy that will allow us not to find ourselves in this position,” said Lamb.

Patti Phillips, coordinator of the Division of Family Practice, said one tactic is bringing Interior Health nurses into local medical clinics to work side by side with a family doctor.

“Some of you may have experienced some appointments where you have spent the majority of the time with the nurse and the last little bit of time with the physician. The nurse does a lot of the follow-up,” said Phillips.

“It not only frees up the physician but it really offers more comprehensive care.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Tri-Kon will be delivering concrete barriers on Friday afternoon for a patio space that will be shared between Soulfood Farm to Table and Sakura.Trevor Crawley photo.
Outdoor patios in the works for downtown core

Efforts already underway to set up outdoor patios on Baker St. from four local business

The BC Wildfire Service will be conducting an ecosystem restoration burn near the old Kimberley airport next week. BC Wildfire Service file.
Ecosystem restoration burn planned for old Kimberley airport area next week

Burn could begin as early as Monday, April 12, 2021

From wall hangings to plant hangers, keychains and shelves, Radiant Knots creates a variety of pieces to suit for any taste and style.
Cranbrook Arts is Looking Radiant

Cranbrook Arts Featured Artist for the month of April is Radiant Knots.… Continue reading

The Peach is adhering to the mandatory mask protocols put in place by the Provincial Health Officer on Nov. 19. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Interior Health doesn’t echo B.C.’s daily COVID record

80 new cases reported Thursday, April 8, compared to 91 the day prior

The new 6,300 square foot Cranbrook Food Bank facility is located at 1624 Industrial Rd 2 and is open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
New Cranbrook Food Bank officially open to the public

The new facility is located at 1624 Industrial Rd. 2 and open Monday, Wednesday, Friday

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read