Interior Health is currently short three psychiatrists in the Kootenay Boundary region, but officials say that shouldn't prevent Castlegar residents from getting the help they need.
In addition to having three open positions, the region also has one psychiatrist on medical leave, leaving six psychiatrists currently working.
“The one psychiatrist who's been visiting Castlegar regularly, he's not available to come to the community right now. He's on medical leave,” says Cheryl Whittleton, Interior Health's community integrated health service administrator. “So we access the remaining psychiatrists via telephone ... and if patients need a psychiatrist they can come to our community offices, and then our teams assess them, triage them, and they can access a psychiatrist and make the appropriate referrals as needed.”
Canada is currently facing a shortage of psychiatrists, and while Interior Health is actively trying to fill the three positions, Whittleton says they've had interest, “but no one signing on the dotted line tomorrow.”
Whittleton says it's not just a matter of attracting psychiatrists. Communities also need to be able to attract families.
“Even though a doctor might want to come and work in this area, their significant others need to be able to have an opportunity for employment and you know there has to be opportunity for kids if there are kids in the relationship,” she says. “So you really have to sell the community as a whole for the entire family.”
In the meantime, Whittleton emphasizes that while Castlegar residents may not be able to walk into the mental health office and immediately see a psychiatrist, help is still available.
“What's important to know is that if anyone has mental issues or concerns or feels that they need help, they can access our mental health offices,” says Whittleton. “They can come and access services via our team ... so if they need an urgent referral, we get that for them. If they have a crisis they can access emergency services. The Daly Pavilion (1200 Hospital Bench Road, Trail) has 24-hour support and service. So our teams can access a psychiatrist right away.”