Regional support to attract doctors

RDEK commits $20,000 to East Kootenay Division of Family Practice

The East Kootenay Division of Family Practice was the happy recipient of $20,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).

The general administration grant was approved to help support recruitment and retention of family physicians for the years 2017 and 2018.

The RDEK and Columbia Basin Trust have provided the Division with funding in the past to help improve care through supporting a coordinator, who is tasked with a focus on recruitment and retention of family physicians.

“This funding is a continuation of that investment,” says Dr. Mike Walsh, chair of the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice.

Local family practice divisions throughout B.C. undertake initiatives to address specific areas of primary care, administration and physician support. Often, that role encompasses attracting and keeping family physicians within a region.

Currently, based on the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice criteria, Invermere does not have a doctor shortage. While Dr. Walsh says there is no hard data on how many people want a family doctor but don’t have one, they can look at other factors to determine if a community is short-staffed. They will look at whether the local physicians have spots available for new patients and whether there are any active open positions for physicians they are trying to fill, for example. For Invermere, the numbers look good.

“We’re at what we think is full capacity,” says Dr. Walsh.

One physician, Dr. Ross, is retiring, but a replacement doctor has been hired to fill her position. Within the last two years, two other physicians joined the Invermere roster as well.

A large component to the EK Division of Family Practice is focused on access to care.

“The Regional District has been a key partner in this to recruit new family doctors,” shared Dr. Walsh.

In the April RDEK board meeting, the decision was postponed a month. In the May, 2017 meeting, the $20,000 grant narrowly passed, with eight votes in favour, seven against.

Rob Gay, chair of the board of RDEK, says it was a controversial decision for the board to make as some directors felt the money should be targeted differently. He explained to The Echo that a number of years ago in Cranbrook there was a family physician “crisis”, with the community finding itself about six doctors short. When a focused effort was made to not only recruit physicians in Cranbrook, but to help them settle, to show them around, connect them with schools for kids, help with jobs for spouses and so on, physician recruitment and retention went way up.

“We saw the success of that,” says Gay, explaining that is why he was in favour of this continued support of the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice.