The $55-million Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre

Will Burns Lake have new doctors?

“We don’t want to say anything until we know for sure,” says Northern Health

Burns Lake may be close to having new doctors in town, according to Northern Health.

“We are getting really positive feedback on the recruiting process and we always have our fingers crossed because we are so desperate,” said Marie Hunter, Northern Health Lakes District health service administrator.

There are currently five physicians working 3.5 full-time equivalent hours in Burns Lake while three full-time postings are open and undergoing recruitment.

“We have the recruiters out and it looks very successful, but I don’t want to say anything until we know for sure,” added Hunter. “The minute we know that we have a physician coming to the community we will be announcing.”

Meanwhile Burns Lake is preparing to welcome new recruits with the creation of an “ambassador committee.”

Although there have been informal efforts by community members to ensure doctors feel right at home, the ambassador committee would provide a formal structure to assist new doctors.

“This ambassador committee would introduce the new recruits to the community and would try to meet their needs and the needs of the family,” explained Hunter. “Part of what this committee will be doing is discussing how to introduce them, finding out what their likes and dislikes are and where they would like to live.”

The committee was proposed by the Burns Lake Sustainability Project, a group that has been working towards recruiting healthcare professionals to the community. In a recent letter to council, the Burns Lake Sustainability Project explains that the ambassador committee would include at least one physician, as well as representatives form local businesses, schools, the village’s economic development officer and cultural leaders.

“Recognizing the importance of support and hospitality from the medical community goes without saying, but an introduction to other community members with similar backgrounds, interests and lifestyles is an approach we would like to formally support,” says the letter.

Burns Lake council was asked on March 22 to decide whether they would support this initiative, as well as to choose a member to represent council on the ambassador committee. Councillor Susan Schienbein said that although she’s supportive of the new committee, she urged council to discuss this idea with current physicians first. Council then decided to defer their decision until they hear the opinion of current physicians.

Hunter said she’s confident that Burns Lake will be able to recruit and retain new doctors.

“We’re hoping that this will be a very positive project,” said Hunter. “We have a brand new hospital, with ultra modern updated equipment; it gives us something to recruit into.”

When asked about the primary care clinic inside the Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre, Hunter said the clinic is up and running; however; it does not have any physicians.

“If we have some physicians requesting to work in that area we will be open,” she explained. “It will be their decision, because people have to choose where they want to work.”

Rural communities in Canada have had difficulties recruiting and retaining physicians for decades. According to Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 13.8 per cent of British Columbians were living in rural areas in 2011 while only 6.3 per cent of physicians were working in those areas.

“While we definitely have a current shortage of doctors, some communities have fewer doctors than we have,” said Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach. “Nevertheless we need to keep striving to bring more doctors to our community and I’m optimistic we are going to be able to do this.”