Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH) is down to two emergency doctors but the medical community says it is committed to making sure it stays open.
That’s the message family physician Glenn Fedor and CMH Chief of Staff Dr. Paul Magnuson gave during a presentation at the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District meeting Friday, Dec. 7.
“It won’t be shutting down,” Fedor said. “We are actively recruiting and doctors have been contacting us from all over Canada expressing interest to come to Williams Lake in various roles to help us out temporarily, if not permanently.”
Magnuson said they are going to fill the gaps in the emergency department with locum support while they are looking for permanent replacements.
In addition to the departure of two emergency doctors, Fedor said two other physicians have moved away within the last four months and over the next while more physicians will be leaving or cutting back.
Doctors intending to leave are giving substantial notice of their plans, which means the shortages will materialize over the next year and half to two years, he added.
“We have great physicians and staff in the Cariboo,” Fedor said. “Our shortages are not because of dissatisfaction in our community. They are often moving to further their careers or for family reasons.”
Interior Health is actively recruiting physicians and nurse practitioners, said Gina Sloan, IH director of medical affairs who was also part of the delegation at the meeting.
“It’s about transitioning our thinking from filling a vacancy to how do we really integrate the physician and their whole family into the community?”
In communities across the province, businesses and organizations often pitch in to support new doctors and their families, she added.
“I’ve seen in Northern Health where they’ve been able to offer child care for the first month while the family gets integrated. Even no-cost items such as somebody being there to welcome them and stop by every week and check in on them,” Sloan said. “I think there are a lot of creative angles that we can use.”
Sloan said the Canadian Medical Association is doing studies on physician health and wellness and the lifestyle of being on call.
“They are finding the rates of depression and burnout are actually higher than the average population, so that’s another thing we are paying attention to when we are creating our medical staff resource plan in determining how many physicians we need to run our departments.”
Sloan praised doctors in Williams Lake for putting in an effort to recruit physicians by creating some web pages promoting Williams Lake and the lifestyle they enjoy outside of work.
“We are extremely unique in Williams Lake,” Magnuson said. “If we recruit doctors, we’ll have a revolving door. If we recruit citizens and the word I like, “residers,” we will have longevity. I’ve been here 29 years. Why? Because I work with great colleagues, because I love my community, I’ve sunk my teeth into it and I’ve raised my kids here.”
Legacy matters, he added.
“There is going to be a changing of the guard in our medical community over the next several years,” he said, referring to some of the long-time doctors eyeing retirement. “To have people just come in and fill in for awhile is not what people want. They want people to come in that are going to be part of the community.”
Medical students are graduating, some with $200,000 in debt, Magnuson said, noting the challenge is to determine how to make Williams Lake attractive and unique because it is competing world-wide.
Sloan told the board the doctors in Williams Lake are committed and focused on quality of service delivery to the community and supportive of each other, which is important when she is working on attracting medical professionals to work in the community.
“It’s not something I see everywhere,” she added.