When the novel coronavirus pandemic emerged Williams Lake’s medical community went into action, said Dr. Glenn Fedor and Dr. Ivan Scrooby.
The two doctors spoke during a tailgate talk event hosted by the Williams Lake Hiring Initiative Thursday, June 11.
A long-time family physician who arrived in Williams Lake 39 years ago, Fedor said he also serves as a medical director for Interior Health and was part of the emergency operation and incident command in the Cariboo for the pandemic.
Doctors, nurses, housekeeping, maintenance, even family members, everyone pitched in, he said.
“I think everyone worked amazingly as a team. I don’t remember any comments from people saying they didn’t want to go to the hospital and go to work and do this because of COVID.”
Dr. Ivan Scrooby, a family physician, GP anesthetist and addictions physician, has been in Williams Lake since 2002.
Originally from South Africa, he has small family practice and is the head of Cariboo Memorial Hospital’s department of anesthesia at the moment, after being recently appointed.
“I play a smaller role in addictions practice recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was involved in developing the isolation unit and part of the anesthetic service for COVID-19.”
When asked how the medical community is currently set up to test and treat COVID-19 patients, Scrooby responded there is a tent outside the hospital used primarily for testing patients who show symptoms or it is believed require testing.
In the hospital there is the isolation space to care for people who are waiting results who require hospital admission, but there is also a safe space for other patients that require care that are obviously not affected by COVID-19.
“My involvement was in creating that space and the medical community is fairly well-prepared now. It’s been a challenging time for us to understand what we needed to do and prepare for a disease we’d never seen before.”
Emergency care was ‘beefed’ up, as well as PPE equipment, to prepare.
If there is a second wave in B.C. that reaches the Interior, Scrooby said the hospital will be prepared.
Fedor said physician offices never really closed down during the pandemic, but were doctors were told by the colleges of physicians they had to modify practices.
“The message was that we needed to try and keep people at home, we needed to try and reduce the contact and not have crowded offices.”
Physicians started using different models.
Some adopted Zoom, some used Doxy.me, another virtual platform, and others did appointments over the phone.
“Right now about 40 per cent of office visits are in person and the rest are by telephone or virtual methods,” Fedor said, nothing there is a safety plan in place for all the doctors.
When asked about recruitment for new doctors, Fedor said it is an ongoing initiative.
An obstetrician left one month ago, a couple of GPs are leaving to do training, a new GP anesthetist arrived a few months ago, a new psychiatrist is coming and there will be ongoing flux, Fedor said.
“Overall we are still short doctors in this town and we definitely need some more doctors. We are also looking at some nurse practitioners in the rural areas.”
Scrooby said getting a new psychiatrist is very good news, and with that there is a discussion underway to bring a full service chronic pain clinic to Williams Lake, which requires a multi-disciplinary team members.
“It would make Williams Lake a unique community to have those services available. I think it is important for the community to know there is a lot of effort going on in the background to expand services. It was happening before COVID, and COVID really delayed us, but we are back at again and I’m very excited.”
Fedor said the 2017 wildfires resulted in developing ways to deal with mental health issues that will help when dealing with the pandemic.
“We know people are going to struggle. I think we are going to see more substance abuse, more alcohol abuse and more domestic violence.”
More resources are coming to the community and some groups have been planning to put together supports for families and youth, he added.
“I think we will have to accept a new normal that we have to get used to doing things in a different way,” Scrooby said, and encouraged anyone who needs medical attention to seek it because there are some patients who stayed away during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic who are now suffering. “It is important we deal with all medical issues.”