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Kootenay doctors on the front lines

Thank you to our home town heroes
Dr. Ryck Schielke is a physician in Cranbrook. (Submitted file)

The Cranbrook and Kimberley communities are grateful for the work being done by all front line workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Each week the Townsman and Bulletin are featuring local heroes who are working on the front lines, from grocery store clerks and pharmacists to doctors and nurses.

This week we would like to introduce you to Dr. Ryck Schielke, a family doctor at the FW Green Clinic in Cranbrook.

Schielke grew up in rural, central Alberta on an acreage. He has worked all across Western Canada on various locums. He has a wife, one year old son and a dog here in Cranbrook, where they moved in July of 2018.

Schielke mainly works in the clinic and at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, but also performs low-risk obstetrics and vasectomies. He has been on the forefront of the pandemic locally, dealing with various challenges.

“At first, life was hectic due to COVID-19. There were a lot of meetings to attend, and new responsibilities and teams that needed to be created and filled,” Schielke explained. “I am the COVID lead for our clinic, and responsible for our management of PPE and coordinating our clinic’s policies for COVID-19. This meant working nearly double the hours in the first week of crisis to ensure we had a safe way for patients to access care in our clinic, taking inventory and ordering PPE, and creating policies for how our clinic would manage to keep ourselves and our patients safe.”

He adds that they had to change all of their call and clinic schedules, all the while dealing with the threat of staff falling ill.

“It was quite a busy time. And I want to emphasize I didn’t do any of this alone, but had an amazing group of staff and coworkers pitching in along the way,” he said.

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The scariest part, however, was when Schielke’s son came down with a cough, runny nose and fever.

“I had to face the fact that I probably brought this illness to him, and it may be COVID. Thankfully, he got over it quickly and recovered very well. I will never know if it was COVID [though] as we weren’t doing many tests then,” Schielke said.

Moving forward, Schielke says that he isn’t sure there would be enough PPE in Cranbrook in the event that a surge of cases moves through the community. This is one challenge that could be presented, but the community has pulled together to flatten the curve of the pandemic and keep hospital numbers down he says.

“We are very thankful for all the efforts of Cranbrook residents to help flatten the curve!” he said, adding that the community has been extremely supportive of healthcare workers.

“One positive I have seen is all the support for health care workers. People have been amazing in their support and appreciation. People are very appreciative during our visits, and always inquiring about how I am doing (during a visit for themselves),” Schielke said. “I am also amazed at how well and how seriously people have taken the social distancing guidelines. They are not guidelines that are easy to follow but people are really stepping up. It was quite scary seeing what has happened in New York and Northern Italy, so it was such a relief to see B.C. (and Canada) do so well.”

He says that now that things are quieting down, the clinic is encouraging patients to make appointments and seek medical help for anything that might arise.

“We do not want patients delaying their visits and becoming much more sick as a result of it,” explained Schielke. “I have personally seen some people wait way too long to get help, and they have gone on to have some serious medical problems diagnosed. We are doing telephone visits unless in person visits are needed, and have a lot of capacity to [treat] more patients.”

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Corey Bullock

About the Author: Corey Bullock

Corey Bullock is a multimedia journalist and writer who grew up in Burlington, Ontario.
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