For the first time in years, Castlegar’s medical clinics are expected to be staffed to full capacity.
The Castlegar Physician Recruitment Committee appeared before city council this week to give an update on the progress of physician recruitment in the city.
The group expects that Castlegar will have a full complement of doctors by the end of summer.
“For the first time in decades Castlegar may be fully staffed,” explained committee member Dr. Elisabeth Smart.
The committee was developed about five years ago and has been very successful thanks to the hard work of all involved.
Recruiter Cheryl Gnyp explained the group’s strategy: distribute a physician-friendly marketing package (information on daycare, faith, sports, schools, etc.), create interest in the area by attending conferences, follow up with all interested candidates, act as a conduit to keep things moving and tie the pieces together, create positive site visit experiences, recruit entire families — not just the physician, ensure retention and incorporate into the community and remain connected.
“It’s extremely important to follow up right away,” said Gnyp. “It is guaranteed they are looking at four or five other communities … you have to keep them interested until you can get them here for a site visit.”
Gnyp even does things like pick up physicians at the airport, help them with furnishing a house and remain connected to help them work through any issues that may arise as they settle in.
“All of this has finally evolved, with the city, Districts I and J, and physicians meeting together once a month with Cheryl to figure out how to make this work. It has really come to a head this year,” said Dr. Smart.
“We have three new full-time physicians and a fourth coming in the fall.”
“What we have in the works has made me the most hopeful and happy that I have been in years,” said Dr. Smart who emphasized that without the help of Gnyp the doctors would never have had the time on their own to recruit new doctors.
“When we’re working — if you have lunch its a good day — so to try to return calls on time, it’s difficult,” she said.
Dr. Ankenbauer said, “We went from an absolute dessert where we didn’t have anybody ever asking us to work here to now a period where numerous applicants in all stages of their professional lives want to come to Castlegar.”
The city has also seen a lot higher number of locums coming to Castlegar to fill in during physician absences.
Dr. Ankenbauer said that the addition of new doctors in town hasn’t reduced the demand in the local emergency room, however.
“It is difficult to break people’s habits. If they feel ill, they go to the ER, because it is the only place they can go 12 hours a day without making an appointment,” he said. “It is going to take time to change these habits even if there are open appointments.”
Mayor Chernoff stated, “It’s been a true partnership — Cheryl, the doctors, the funders — Area I and J and the city. Cheryl, you don’t take enough credit for what you really do out there … We’ve worked hard together and it has grown in leaps and bounds … I’d just like to say thank you very much.”