After working almost three decades as a surgeon at Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Williams Lake, Dr. Dan Brosseuk has resigned.
“For the 27 years that I have practiced at CMH, I have been proud of the fact that we have provided excellent care in a timely fashion to our surgical patients,” Brosseuk told the Tribune March 28, 2022.
“I had not planned to resign my privileges at CMH in the foreseeable future; however, over the past year there have been changes in the function of the operating room that I believe eroded our ability to provide this level of care.”
Brosseuk did not elaborate on the details of his concerns leading up the resignation, though Debra Palin, who retired as a nurse March 31, told the Tribune it was resulting from administrative decisions by Interior Health (IH).
She said the loss is “going to effect Williams Lake in a very negative way.”
Interior Health gave an emailed statement when asked for comment on possible impacts to services due to Brosseuk’s departure.
“Interior Health can confirm that one of three surgeons supporting the Cariboo Memorial Hospital has resigned. We are committed to recruiting another surgeon to fill this position as quickly as possible and recruitment is already under way. Until a new surgeon arrives, we will also have locum (visiting) surgeons providing surgeries for local patients. We do not anticipate surgical postponements related to this transition.”
Health authorities have been strained over the last two years across B.C. due to COVID-19. In January, Interior Health took a number of measures to manage the Omicron-driven staffing impacts on the health system, including temporarily rescheduling non-urgent surgeries as a response to that crisis to “maintain safe patient care.”
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson praised the skill set Brosseuk brought to the region and worried about the implications of this change for residents’ health care in the area.
“I am horrified at the effect that this could have on this community,” said Doerkson. “(Brosseuk’s skill set) is not easily replaced, particularly at a time when we’re extremely short on doctors. This is becoming a critical shortage in British Columbia.”
On the physician job site Health Match BC, there are currently 198 postings for a variety of permanent physician positions in the Interior alone, over 1,000 across all of B.C.
There were also 15 postings for physician roles in Williams Lake, which includes locum (short-term) and permanent doctor positions, including a psychiatrist and a general surgeon.
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb was aware of Brosseuks’ departure and said recruitment of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel has “always been an issue on one level or another. It seems to have gotten worse in the last few years.”
“I have heard that he’s a top-notch surgeon and we certainly need that qualification in our community,” he added.
He said the city is working on an agreement to support recruitment and retention in the area, but in the end, the recruitment of doctors is not the city’s responsibility, it is Interior Health’s.
“It’s a provincial mandate,” said Cobb.
During his career in Williams Lake Brosseuk was able to perform advanced laparoscopic procedures and “ERCP”s – a procedure to diagnose and treat problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas.
Brosseuk said it was “very disappointing to have put so much time and effort into building a surgical department that was unique for a rural community and provided a level of surgical care not generally available in a community this size, then have to walk away from it due to the administrative changes being imposed on us.”
“Working with my colleagues and providing care to the patients of the Cariboo Chilcotin at CMH has been an absolute privilege. Leaving my practice has been an extremely difficult decision to make and one I did not make lightly. Nevertheless, given the circumstances I feel it was the right decision.”
Brosseuk is married to Dr. Gisele Adam, an ER physician at CMH who also assisted in the OR. Adam has also resigned her full time ER position but continues to work in the department until her shifts can be covered.
“I raised concerns with the Interior Health Authority and was subsequently told my concerns were unfounded with no further explanation provided and no avenue to further discussions,” Adam told the Tribune.
Adam has been in Williams Lake for five years, as a trainee and then as a full time ER doctor. She has family in the area and said she was committed to being here.