Two weeks after nearly losing their round-the-clock emergency ward, residents of New Denver are rolling up their sleeves to try to find a permanent solution to their doctor crisis.
And bribery isn’t necessarily off the table.
“Do we want to give them a car to move here?,” asked one participant at an ideas workshop, held Monday night at a school gym in the community.
There were other financial carrots floated at the meeting: free housing, free trips for fishing and hunting, or have the community pay for a doctor’s medical training or exams.
No ideas were beyond the pale as the community wrestles with ways of trying to ease its doctor shortage, which prompted Interior Health to announce last month it was cutting the hours of the community’s emergency department. An instant and angry reaction to the idea prompted provincial health officials to back down for now, but the cut will go ahead in April if more doctors can’t be found to staff the facility.
Monday’s meeting brought about 50 people to brainstorm ideas from what incentives the community can offer, to how to lobby for policy change, how to recruit new doctors, and how the community can ‘Love Our Locums’- how to welcome visiting doctors and possibly entice them to stay.
“Basically we are collecting ideas from the community that we haven’t thought of yet as a committee,” says Danika Hammond, a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s health committee, which is spearheading the recruitment effort. “We want to find out what direction the community wants to go in, and get a sense of what ideas are popular.”
Among the ideas presented were lobbying Ottawa to pressure the province to ensure health care is being provided; community fundraising to offer doctors cash to stay; sharing doctors with nearby communities; sending out more feelers to recruitment agencies; and pushing for change to health policies to make it easier to recruit foreign doctors to the area, or for nurse-practitioners to do the work doctors now do. At another table, participants built up a case for continuing the 24-hour service, including what could happen if the service is lost.
“It impacts our businesses and schools,” said one participant. “People don’t want to live here without health care.”
“It’s death by 1,000 cuts,” said another. “This is non-negotiable.”
Hammond says she was impressed by much of what she heard.
“There was some legal advice that was new, and somebody came forward who wants to help us with fundraising,” she said after the meeting. “That’s exciting because there’ve been a of of recruitment ideas we don’t have the funds for.”
Dozens of ideas were floated during the 90-minute session. Hammond says the Chamber committee will now collect and collate the suggestions, and begin to implement what they can.
With only three months to solve a years-old problem, however, the community is feeling the pressure to get moving on the issue.
New Denver Mayor Ann Bunka said she was impressed with the turnout and ideas being presented.
“The community is completely involved in this,” she said. “I know there’s going to be fabulous ideas we haven’t thought of, so it’s great.”