One Shuswap community’s efforts to attract doctors may soon be pay off.
District of Sicamous councillor, Malcolm Makayev, is cautiously optimistic when he explains a number of discussions are currently underway with medical professionals who have expressed an interest in relocating to the community.
“I can say we are in discussions with one doctor from Saskatchewan that has visited our community on a couple of occasions and has expressed interest in practicing in our community,” said Makayev. “And we’re also in discussions with a younger female doctor from the Lower Mainland that has also visited… and is interested in practicing in our community.
“We’ve also had an expression of interest, or somebody who has called expressing some interest from Ontario, who has some family ties in the local community who is also interested in maybe practicing in Sicamous.”
Makayev believes Sicamous could easily support up to three doctors, adding the Saskatchewan doctor’s partner is a nurse practitioner, which would also be a good fit.
“In my opinion, the ideal scenario for Sicamous would be two doctors and a nurse practitioner, and our community could support that easily,” said Makayev.
For several years now, Sicamous has been part of an regional effort to attract doctors. The district has been able to stand out, however, by being able to offer different incentives.
“We have what we like to call a ‘lifestyle incentive’ to help as a recruitment tool to bring doctors to practice in Sicamous,” said Makayev. “We’re a resort community – it’s not hard to sell our lifestyle.”
The District of Sicamous recently purchased the medical and dental building at 217 Finlayson, further showing its commitment to the provision of community health and wellness.
“As owners of the building the medical clinic is a tenant in, that does give us another tool in our toolbox to help in our recruitment, to show potential doctors we are serious about health care in our community,” said Makayev.
Where Sicamous has a municipal council stepping up to attract doctors, elsewhere in the Shuswap that work is being done by community groups – with varying degrees of success. For example, the Sorrento and Area Community Health Centre – a community-run facility – currently has a nurse practitioner employed by Interior Health. The centre’s chair, Marilyn Clark, says the care provided by the NP is excellent, but adds the area’s population of approximately 8,000 could benefit from having a full-time doctor.
“As a general statement, rural communities have more difficulty recruiting physicians than urban communities,” said Clark. “We had a doctor here for 35 years who raised his family here, had a very good practice, so it’s possible to have a very good practice in this community. But he retired. And when he retired he was able to attract a physician who was from South Africa via the UK, who came and took over his practice. And about a year and a half later… he moved to Salmon Arm.”
Clark said various efforts have been made by the centre to acquire doctors, including a recent application for an international medical graduate (Canadian citizens who studied outside of the country) who would do a two-year return of service in Sorrento.
“There was three from Kamloops and we thought we might get one of them because there was only two opportunities for placement after their residency in Kamloops…,” Clark explained. “At the very last minute, Interior Health added another location in Kamloops. So the three that were in Kamloops stayed in Kamloops. It was so last-minute-ish and we really felt we’d been kicked in the butt.”
Clark suggests if the centre were an Interior Health-run facility, it might have more success at acquiring a physician.
“It’s something we may have to consider,” said Clark. “We’ve taken great pride in how well the health centre has operated and how the community has pulled together to support it. it’s truly a community facility. So we would have to make a bid decision about whether or not we would want to ask IH if they would want to be entrusted in taking it on. We haven’t done that, we haven’t even talked about that.”
In nearby Blind Bay, the South Shuswap Health Services Society (SSHSS) has been busy with its own community-driven recruitment effort.
“We need physicians, community care, public health nurses, we need to have full care available to our communities,” said SSHSS director Sue McCrae.
Like Sorrento, the SSHSS has a facility but no existing practice.
“Therefore, (doctors) are building their practice and that makes a difference,” said McCrae.
Though the SSHSS has met with physicians, they too have yet to find one for whom the South Shuswap is the right fit.
“It is discouraging but we’re not giving up,” said McCrae. “We’re going to keep going, we’re going to keep trying. We’ve got two examination rooms almost ready to go for physicians and those have been done with a lot of hard work from within the community and the support of the community. So when one comes, then we’ll be almost ready for them. And I think that that’s a lot of the incentive, is that we are going to be ready to help them, we have volunteers that will be ready to step in and help.”