Castlegar is currently short three doctors, despite what an Interior Health Agency employee told the Castlegar Source back in November.
Cheryl Whittleton, heath service administrator for the Kootenay Boundary, told the Source that “Castlegar has a full complement of family physicians, but the city and IHA are proactively recruiting in anticipation of some of those doctors eventually retiring.”
Cheryl Gnyp, Castlegar and area physician recruiter, sent out a press release correcting that statement earlier this month, saying that she is actively trying to recruit three family physicians for Castlegar to fill a shortage.
Interior Health says it was a misunderstanding on their part that led to the information in the Source and that they didn’t mean to cause confusion.
“At the time I made the previous comment, the information I had was that the recent hiring of two new physicians for Castlegar was bringing the community up to full complement of GPs. I regret that what I said created some confusion — it was certainly not intentional and Cheryl Gnyp and I have discussed this to avoid any similar confusion in future,” says Whittleton. “Although Interior Health does not directly oversee private GP practices, we are continuing to support the recruitment of additional physicians for Castlegar — we do currently have three Castlegar physician positions posted on the IH physician recruitment website.
“We are also working closely with the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice physician group to identify and address the physician needs in all our communities.”
Castlegar doctors are also currently working under the added pressure of taking on additional Castlegar critical care patients who were previously receiving medical treatment in Trail, after an unexpected clinic closure there.
Gnyp says that the biggest obstacle to recruiting new physicians is bringing Castlegar to their attention.
“Physicians have a plethora of places they can choose from: all of BC, all of Alberta, all of Ontario, all of every province in Canada and beyond” says Gnyp. “And while we have some of the most beautiful country to offer, so do most places within BC, and we are all vying for the same doctors.”
Once she’s gone through the work of getting their attention and recruiting new doctors for Castlegar, Gnyp’s next step is to make sure they stay in the area.
“Recruitment is one end of it, but retention is the other,” says Gnyp. “If we can get doctors, but we can’t keep them then it just becomes that revolving door.”
A big part of retention can be helping physicians’ spouses find employment.
Luckily, because of Gnyp’s experience, she’s able to help with that.
“I’m fairly connected into the employment world. I spent 12 years as an employment councillor, so I know where to find the information, I know where to find the work if there is a spouse. I know who to connect them to,” she says.
The Castlegar area also recently established a recruiting network that meets monthly to allow for intelligent recruiting and establishing of physicians’ families in the area, to help with retention. The network includes Mayor Lawrence Chernoff, John Malcolm, City of Castlegar CAO, Rick Smith from Area J, and Andy Davidoff from Area I, two family physicians, and Gnyp.
There have been some recent successes in attracting doctors to Castlegar.
Two family physicians were hired to replace doctors who have either left or are retiring, but as they’re taking over pre-existing patients, they’re not currently accepting new patients.
Dr. Gil completed her residency in Vancouver and will be working in the Castlegar Medical Associates clinic, taking over for Dr. Clemans-Gibbon, who left the practice to return to the UK. Dr. Makwati comes from South Africa and has been a family physician for a number of years, having worked in the US, China and other parts of the world.
According to Gnyp’s press release, “So far, both doctors are enjoying the Castlegar area and the quality of life that our community offers.”