Doctor recruitment high priority for IHA

Interior Health responds to rumours surrounding the cuts to Emergency Room hours in Ashcroft.

Dear Editor

I understand many Ashcroft and area residents are concerned about the future of health-care services and their hospital given the changes with our physician complement. Let me first say that Interior Health shares your concern. Our goal is the same as yours – to recruit additional physicians, strengthen primary care in the community and have in place a sustainable and reliable Emergency Department service at Ashcroft Hospital and Community Health Centre.

We have also heard that some members in the community believe decisions have already been made regarding ER service for the summer months. I want to assure you that is not the case. We are actively recruiting for physicians and working to secure as much locum coverage as possible for the ED. Any changes to service as a result of the physician shortage will be communicated through community updates sent to local media, posted at the hospital and clinic, and at key locations throughout the community.

Family physician recruitment and retention is a challenge across B.C. and across Canada, particularly in rural communities. As a result, we are dedicating time and resources to attract physicians to the community; they are the key to delivering consistent primary care and Emergency Department coverage.

With only one physician in the community, the adjustment made to ED hours in May was not a choice, it was a necessity. This decision was made in full collaboration with the community’s remaining physician, elected officials and the Wellness Health Action Coalition (WHAC) and one the group felt would ensure predictability for residents, while also maintaining the wellbeing of the remaining physician. Until we secure more permanent physician coverage, we expect there will continue to be reduced hours at the site. However, what this will look like in the coming months is uncertain and dependent on recruitment efforts. We will confirm the ED hours for June later this month.

Interior Health continues to make Ashcroft a high priority, advertising extensively in physician and medical journals, through websites and at medical conferences. We are also looking at upcoming opportunities through return of service agreements with potential International Medical Graduate candidates.

We are working with Village Council and the members of WHAC and discussing our shared role in recruiting new physicians to the area. We’ll continue this collaborative approach in our efforts to maintain Ashcroft Hospital and Community Health Centre as a viable, sustainable community resource; we understand how important health-care services are to Ashcroft-area residents.

As recently announced, the Emergency Department hours for May are as follows:

Monday, 8 a.m. to noon

Tuesday, 9 a.m. to noon

Wednesday, 9 a.m. to noon

Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon

Weekends: Friday, 6 p.m. to Monday, 8 a.m.

The only exception, at this time, is Thursday, May 14, when the Ashcroft Hospital and Health Centre Emergency Department will be closed due to lack of physician availability.

Berni Easson

Health Service Administrator