The Clearwater Health and Professional Working Group was formed in 2008 to address shortages within the health care profession and to take initial steps to protect the health care needs of the community.
At the time, Clearwater was experiencing a severe shortages for locums, who provide interim relief for our local doctors. By implementing new strategies and creating a focused plan, the committee was able to quickly establish Clearwater as a desirable location for locums.
Since 2008, there have been a number of changes within health care recruitment and delivery models. The current goals of the committee revolve around attracting professionals to the valley on a permanent basis. With new initiatives and partnerships being formed with Interior Health Authority (IHA) and with financial incentives from the B.C. government, a rejuvenated effort for focused recruitment to Clearwater has begun. In its 2012 and 2013 budget, District of Clearwater council has allocated funds to attract and retain health care professionals.
The first phase of the new program includes participation in conferences for rural health care. Councillor Shelley Sim, as the council appointee, has attended several of these. In April, she attended a three-day international conference in Victoria, which proved to be an excellent follow up to the Whistler conference that she attended in 2012. The bright Love Where You Live marketing materials were well received and saw Clearwater in the spotlight. Sim will also attend the Family Medicine Forum in Vancouver this coming November, which sees over 4,500 family physicians, family medicine teachers, researchers, residents, medical students, nurses, and nurse practitioners as participants.
Communities from all over Canada and the world attend these conferences with hopes of making connections with health care professionals. Australia and New Zealand often send three separate groups to ensure a strong and dynamic presence. Health care shortages are a worldwide issue.
In partnership with IHA, the Physician Recruitment Committee addresses multiple recruitment issues. New physicians and the ongoing recruitment of qualified candidates are sourced through referrals from Health Match BC and Interior Health, as well as personal contacts made at conferences and events. Additionally, IHA provides national advertising in medical journals.
The partnerships are producing results. In the next while, Clearwater will see visits from two different doctors looking to relocate to British Columbia and plans are in place to showcase the Clearwater area. The committee is confident that their efforts will soon welcome new professionals to the North Thompson Valley.
Recruitment is not only a local issue but needs support by a provincial action plan. With this in mind, Councillor Sim was supported by mayor and council in her bid to run as a director-at-large for SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association) in May. She was elected and her primary goal is to bring the issues of rural recruitment and retention to the provincial forum.
Government and communities need to look 25 years down the road and to create a plan to identify long term needs and ensure action is taken to fulfill those needs. Individual communities should not bear the burden on their own. By being involved at SILGA, councillor Sim hopes to collectively engage other local communities in the process to ensure that the B.C. government heeds the immediate needs and concerns.
Rural communities need to be on par with larger communities. Recruitment should be addressed as a provincial issue, not only as a regional or community issue. The financial playing field needs to be equalized and all of B.C. should be assured of positive action to address physician and health care shortages.