Dr. Sandra Okezue, left, Coun. Shelley Sim and Dr. Kara Perdue at the Rural Health Care Conference in Penticton. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Sandra Okezue, left, Coun. Shelley Sim and Dr. Kara Perdue at the Rural Health Care Conference in Penticton. (Submitted photo)

Clearwater council continues health care recruitment at conference

Councillor and three doctors attended conference to advocate for Clearwater

District of Clearwater councillor Shelley Sim attended the 2022 Rural Health Care Conference in Penticton, along with three doctors from the community, Drs. Kara Perdue, Sandra Okezue and Chibuiken Ofoegbu.

In her council report during the May 17 regular meeting, Sim noted there were over 300 physicians, graduates, medical students and various partners gathered at the convention that is focused on recruitment of those planning to work in the medical field, and for those that already do.

A booth was set up at the conference promoting rural and remote communities under the Clearwater chapter. Sim said they engaged with about 50 per cent of participants, with trivia questions and “love where you work” cookies from the Strawberry Moose.

A town the size of Clearwater needs five full-time doctors. Currently, the community is operating with 2.5 (two full-time and one part-time).

Sim added the doctor shortage has been felt in Victoria, garnering some attention in the legislature, and is a conversation that won’t go away.

“I share that because if we are going to really take part in this discussion, our recruitment and retention efforts now need to start yesterday,” she told council. “It is going to be a fierce competition for new graduates. The amount of senior doctors who are now retiring is going to be significant and in numbers that we haven’t seen before.”

Another problem with senior doctors leaving is the lack of mentorship at hospitals and clinics for younger and new physicians entering the field. Dr. John Soles, who retired a couple years ago, was that mentor here in Clearwater.

“Clearwater doesn’t have that right now,” said Sim.

It’s an opportunity, however, to make a shift and see how the problem can be adapted into a solution, she added.

Dr. Soles was recognized at the conference and given a Rural Health Award for Above and Beyond Recognition. Before his retirement, Dr. Soles was the chief of staff at Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital, where he worked for 32 years, though he remains a locum. He was involved in numerous organizations and initiatives, including being Interior Regional Physician lead for the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, supporting neighbouring towns and First Nations communities.

“John is a rare kind of leader who always leads with heart and humour,” said Dr. Kate McCaroll, physician lead for the Revelstoke Chapter and board member of the RRDFP. “Although some could argue that rural medicine is in crisis, what will strike you about John is how he always remains hopeful and offers solutions, rather than dwelling on problems. John has left an undeniable mark on medicine in B.C. for the better.”


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