The Village of New Denver and its surrounding residents may have been given a reprieve when Interior Health changed its decision to curtail emergency department hours at the Slocan Community Health Centre (SCHC).
But residents realize this fight isn’t over. IH has said talks will resume in the spring about cutting hours at the Health Centre if there aren’t more physicians to cover on-call hours.
In the meantime, the community is working hard to recruit the two physicians that will allow their emergency department to remain open all hours. At the moment there is one physician working at the Health Centre clinic and covering the emergency’s on-call hours.
“We knew we were going to have problems,” admitted Moss. “We were pretty complacent for a number of years. We had to start from scratch [for doctor recruitment].”
The community has been very active promoting a locally-made recruitment video, and the response has been overwhelming, said Colin Moss, Chair of the Slocan Chamber of Commerce Health Committee.
“People are emailing us from all over the world. It’s gone viral. We had a hundred thousand hits on our video, and we just got started.”
The positions for New Denver have been posted on the Interior Health recruitment website and the provincial recruitment website since last June, said Karen Bloemink, Executive Director IH – East, Hospitals and Communities Integrated Services, in an email response to The Nelson Daily.
“IH submitted New Denver for potential placement of UBC return of service for international medical graduates – two candidates expressed interest but opted for positions in other rural IH communities,” Bloemink said.
“New Denver was listed as a rural opportunity in online and printed medical journal advertisements last fall and will be part of additional targeted advertisements in the next month. We are also committed to sharing the excellent video created by the community on our social media platforms once we are provided with the permanent link from the producers.”
Recruiting new doctors is different these days, said Moss. Many new physicians want to do several locums to see where they might want to live, and don’t want to be tethered to long on-call hours.
The New Denver facility had 1,419 emergency department visits in the 2016/17 fiscal year, an average of slightly fewer than four visits per day, with roughly 73 per cent of those visits being non-emergency cases, according to Bloemink.
IH sweetens the pot for physicians who do consider making the move to rural areas with a one-time bonus of $20,000 plus $15,000 in relocation fees, $5,720 for continued education, and an annual flat fee of $19,706 paid on top of the fees billed per patient.
“In addition to provincial incentives, individual communities have at times offered their own local incentives to attract physicians to their specific communities, Bloemink said.
Moss agrees that “alternative” ways of making it work for new doctors that don’t necessarily follow traditional models might be part of the solution.
One part of the solution could be supplying housing for an incoming doctor and their family, or incorporating emergency nursing.
Moss said the Health Committee will be bringing alternatives and plans to the table, and he’s optimistic about future talks with IH.
“I have to say we’ve noticed a real change in their attitude in the last couple of days, said Moss. “They’re really stepping up to help us.”