Williams Lake has three new doctors: Dr. Johann Kriek (from left)

Williams Lake has three new doctors: Dr. Johann Kriek (from left)

Three new doctors for Williams Lake

People without a family physician will be happy to hear there are three new doctors in Williams Lake.

People without a family physician will be happy to hear there are three new doctors in Williams Lake.

Dr. Travis Routtu, who was born and raised in Williams Lake, is practising at Cariboo Medical Clinic where he is accepting new patients.

“I did some locums at a few clinics in Williams Lake and I decided Cariboo Medical Clinic was a good fit,” he said Wednesday just before he saw his first patient after lunch.

Just shy of 30 years of age, Dr. Routtu said it was always his plan to return to work in Williams Lake after he completed the Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia.

During high school he began looking at medicine as an option and through university and his undergraduate studies it became more apparent that was what he wanted to pursue.

“I did my first year of university here at TRU and then transferred to Kamloops for my second year,” he said. “It is nice to have that option here in town. It is easier sometimes to attend university in the town you grew up in.”

Dr. Routtu also offers maternity services.

“I think there are eight of us doing maternity,” Routtu said. “It is nice in town to have the obstetricians we have because they are quite supportive.”

Williams Lake also has two new doctors who were recruited internationally through the Practice Ready Assessment-BC program, which is a partnership between the provincial government and Doctors of BC.  Dr. Johann Kriek is at Cameron Clinic and  Dr. Ghaida Radhi is at Yorston Clinic.

Dr. Kriek is from Cape Town South Africa and worked all over South Africa as a doctor after graduating from medical school in 2010.

Three years ago he and his wife, Dr. Vanessa Malherbe, started inquiring about coming to work in Canada.

“We thought we wanted a bit of an adventure. One of my best friends was in Canada and he suggested we come here,” Kriek said.

After two years of starting the process they arrived in Williams Lake bringing with them their 11-month-old daughter, Nina.

Presently Dr. Malherbe is studying to write her exams and if all goes well she will start working in Williams Lake in August, becoming the city’s fourth new doctor.

Initially they were applying to go to Alberta, but learned the province was not taking physicians at the time.

Then Kriek’s father met a physician who was working in Williams Lake with Dr. Glenn Fedor.

“He told my father that Williams Lake is a great town, there are lots of nice people and if you enjoy the outdoors there are lots of things to do,” Kriek said.

Fortunately, he added, Williams Lake was one of the places on the top of the list with the Practice Ready Assessment program.

Already he is enjoying some of the different aspects of medical care in Canada compared to South Africa, he said.

“One of the big differences is that in South Africa you have a public sector and a private sector whereas in Canada the majority of patients are under the public sector,” he said.

Other differences are the availability to more resources in Canada and technologically, in Canada, there are electronic medical records whereas in South Africa they are still using hand-written notes.

Outside of work he enjoys running, camping, playing squash and physical activities.

He has heard about mountain biking, but thinks he will start off with cross-country biking, he added.

Dr. Kriek is accepting new patients who don’t have a family doctor.

Dr. Radhi hails from Bahrain in the Persian Gulf and has moved to Williams Lake with her husband and three children, ages three, six and 10.

She chose Canada because it is multicultural and opens its arms to people with expertise, she said.

“My kids were with me when I was writing exams in Vancouver, and after one weekend visit to Williams Lake, they asked if we could stay,” she said. “I am lucky Dr. Glenn Fedor chose me — we are happy here.”

Ever since she was a child Dr. Radhi wanted to be a doctor and remembers playing with a toy stethoscope.

“My father was accepted into medical school and started his first semester but during that time they discovered he had an eye problem and was told he couldn’t be a doctor,” she said. “I think he was always pushing me to be a doctor because he couldn’t be one.”

As for coming to Canada, she said that never occurred to her until around 2011 when she learned there was a need for doctors in Canada and Australia.

“I fit all the criteria and started the process but not really thinking that I would come to Canada.”

Then in 2015 she obtained her permanent residency and realized she could go to Canada.

“The biggest job was to convince my family,” she said. “It was a bit of a shock for them.”

As her family settles into the Cariboo they are having to adjust in some ways.

“We don’t know how to ski or skate, so will have to learn,” she said smiling. “Back home we did a lot of swimming.”

Her husband is an accountant, but has not found work yet.

Dr. Radhi is accepting new patients at this time.

Internationally trained physicians continue to make a valuable contribution to the delivery of health care and patient services, particularly in rural communities, said Dr. Alan Ruddiman, president of Doctors of BC.

“The PRA-BC program helps fill the demand for skilled physicians within BC’s rural health authorities and its many under-serviced rural communities.”

As part of the program, doctors undergo a rigorous assessment process, spending three months with a B.C. physician who evaluates their skills as they care for patients.

Physicians successfully completing the program commit to practise for a minimum of three years in a designated rural community in need. These physicians have begun practising this month or are in the process of establishing their practices.

Executive Director, Trevor Barnes.  Here is his quote.

“The recent recruitment of family physicians to Williams Lake and 100 Mile House has been the result of efforts both provincially and locally,” said Trevor Barnes, executive director with the Central Interior Rural Division. “Locally, we need to recognize the effort that local physicians and our recruitment team at the CIRD have made.  Everyone has been working very hard to ensure that the physician supply in our area matches the needs of our population.”