No North Shuswap doctors

Medical centre: Retiring physicians won’t be replaced.

The North Shuswap Medical Centre is losing its doctors and no others are in sight.

“It is very sad,” says Larry Morgan, Columbia Shuswap Regional District director for the North Shuswap. “We worked very hard and have taken several different approaches  to come up with something. Unfortunately, it appears we’re not able to continue recruiting.”

Morgan says he and members of the North Shuswap Health Society have had multiple meetings with Interior Health, to no avail.

“They are not interested in restarting Scotch Creek,” he says, noting the health authority indicated in 2013 that emergency response beyond Scotch Creek towards Anglemont, Celista and Seymour Arm would likely involve a helicopter.

The clinic’s closure is due to the retirement of Drs. Ken and Janet Bates, who have worked in the clinic for the past three-and-a-half years.

Janet says she and her husband were recruited by Interior Health on the basis of providing care from both the Chase and Scotch Creek clinics.

But, after they arrived, IH chose to close Scotch Creek, at which point the Bates left the employment of the health authority and undertook operation of the clinic in Scotch Creek.

“The whole thing is so hard for people to understand, but IH has determined our area is not part of their manpower plan so they don’t aid in recruiting like they do in other areas,” she says, pointing out a $15,000 incentive is not made available to the North Shuswap. “Clearly it is very difficult for patients; we have no form of public transportation… no way for many people to go to the doctor. We saw a lot of people who, in the absence of doctors, simply didn’t see anybody.”

Janet says the North Shuswap Health Society is still trying to get some form of health-care provider to the clinic and there’s a possibility the doctors in Chase might visit the clinic one day a week, “which clearly would be wonderful for the patients.”

In an Aug. 1 letter to their patients, advising them of the imminent closure, the Bates  identified Dr. Curtis Bell, community medical director as the Interior Health decision-maker, who has determined the “manpower plan” calls for three doctors for Chase.

Janet is not just concerned about doctors but about other health-care providers as well.

“We worked really hard to get a lab. Life Labs comes once a week and the real hope is they could continue to do that,” she says. “The health-care society has committed to keeping the lab open for a year, but some of the money is coming from fundraising.”

The Bates are also concerned that, without a space, the services of a foot-care specialist who visits the clinic once a month and a nurse practitioner who visits twice a month will be lost.

“We have worked at recruiting, but it’s clear Chase has more help from the health authority,” she says.

Bell was out of the office and unavailable for comment.