UPDATE: An official with the Saddle Mountain Medical Clinic is offering some clarification to the mayor’s comments.
Two doctors (Goranson and Pond) left Nakusp, but the clinic has re-hired for the one physician, the Clinic’s manager Jacqui Cameron says.
“We are currently short only one physician who worked mostly part time (Dr. Pond),” she says.
A third physician is going on a leave of absence, but only temporarily, Cameron adds. That means the community will be down only one physician, not two.
Cameron also says the number of people without a physician in town is not 800, as the mayor had indicated, but 342 out of about 4,000 in the catchment area.
They are “all being taken care of by locum physicians and our remaining four doctors”, Cameron said.
She also disagreed that the shortage was putting more stress on the emergency ward at the hospital.
“We are not unnecessarily sending patients to the emergency department,” she said. “All patients who need to be seen urgently but not emergently are being seen the same day or the next day in the clinic. My team and myself work very hard on ensuring everyone who needs to be seen is seen in order of urgency.”
The Arrow Lakes News appreciates the clarification.
A special committee has been struck to try to head off a looming doctor’s shortage in Nakusp.
Two doctors have already left Nakusp in the last year, and a third may be leaving soon, cutting the complement of doctors in the village from six to three.
“Right now we have four positions to run a busy clinic and keep the emergency department open 24 hours a day,” says Mayor Tom Zeleznik, who is the council representative on the committee.
“We are facing a burn-out situation, and that could make recruitment potentially be more difficult.”
Three people — Zeleznik, a local doctor, and a private citizen — will sit on the newly-minted committee.
Zeleznik says the situation has been slowly getting worse, and now about 800 people in the area are without a regular doctor.
“This has added pressure to our already full practices, which has led to increased wait times for appointments, and driving patients to visit the emergency department for unnecessary reasons at a high cost to the taxpayer,” the mayor told council at a meeting in January.
Zeleznik says the recruitment committee will borrow from the Village of New Denver’s playbook. That community recently went from facing hour reductions at its health centre to a full complement of doctors.
“We’re going to go to conferences, reach out through advertising, bring candidates here for a visit, produce a video, t-shirts, and bumper stickers,” amongst other strategies, Zeleznik says.
The committee will apply for grants to pay for the promotional and recruitment activities. Details are still being worked out, Zeleznik says, as the committee has only held its founding meeting.
But he says the recruitment committee’s work is vital.
“If we want our community to grow, we need doctors and nurses and specialists,” he says. “So we have to give this a priority.”
Councillor Ken Miller, who sits on the hospital foundation, pledged that board’s help to the effort.