While she may not be doing back flips, healthcare landing coordinator Melissa LaPointe has done sunset yoga on the top of a mountain with a visiting doctor.
Hired almost a year ago to work with visiting or newly-arrived healthcare professionals in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, LaPointe has had some successes which she shared with city council during the regular meeting Tuesday, June 20.
Originally from Prince Edward Island, she said relocated to Williams Lake in 2005 as an occupational therapist.
“Hospitality and hosting is very natural to me coming from the Maritimes,” she told council.
LaPointe works with the city’s economic development manager Beth Veenkamp and Raylene Dieck who was hired as a program assistant in May 2023.
The three-year program is funded by the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District.
Some of the highlights she shared include securing three long-term furnished rentals in Williams Lake and two long-term rentals in 100 Mile House for healthcare professionals to use whether they are in town for interviews, or doing locums or just moving to the area for work.
“We are working on a fourth place for Williams Lake and are being creative in tapping into other resources.”
They have also secured some short-term furnished rentals with several homeowners.
Sharing a list, which she said by June 20, was outdated, she noted in the 11 months they have welcomed 37 emergency department locums, four hospitalist locums, one pediatrician locum, one midwife locum, six medical school students, one nurse practitioner student, two physiotherapist students and one pharmacist student.
Another proactive measure has been to arrange for car rentals, pick up healthcare professionals at the airport, arrange for strollers, cribs, car seats, tutors, school options, or even connect them with mountain biking or hiking.
And it has made a difference because locums are bringing their families and some stay for longer terms.
“We have helped some people stay,” LaPointe said, noting that list included one emergency department physician, a dietitian, two occupational therapists, a physiotherapist, mental health clinician, family practice physicians, a resident physician, four internationally-trained family physicians through the PRA-BC Program and one internationally-trained family physician through the BCPNP Immigration Program.
She also provided a list of community partners they have developed positive working relationships with, ranging from the medical administrative assistant for both hospitals to local businesses.
As LaPointe said, they are “planting the seed one locum experience at a time.”
The emergency room has lots of locums, but they are coming back for eight shifts a month, many with their families and it helps because they know the nursing staff.
Mayor Surinderpal Rathor thanked LaPointe and the staff for the work and said, “luckily, to date, we have not had any weekend that our emergency department was shut down.”
Coun. Sheila Boehm recalled when the healthcare landing program was first being discussed, Veenkamp had suggested they would need to find a unicorn.
“I think we found it,” she said. “Although we do want long-term, you are getting what you are now.”
Adding her praise to the team’s efforts, Coun. Joan Flaspohler said what they are doing is an intricate way to make individuals connect with the community.
“We have an amazing community here and if you are doing this, it’s priceless. Sometimes the little things, moments of care, can make somebody make that decision.”