THOMPSON-NICOLA - With the loss of community doctors in both Logan Lake and Ashcroft residents have had limited health care options for a significant period of time, but that could change by February as the province continues with a program to bring international doctors to rural communities.
Dr. Nancy Humber, the community medical director for the west region of Interior Health, says the provincially-funded program will help place five international doctors in rural communities, including Logan Lake and Ashcroft, following a clinical field assessment.
“We have candidates who are interested and seem to be a good fit for the community for the two positions in Ashcroft and for the one position in Logan Lake. If the screening and selection continues to be positive and if the clinical field assessment is positive, then the candidates would start the clinical field process in October and they should be ready to start work in February,” Humber says.
Following the assessment comes provincial medical licensure and a three-year promise to remain in the community in which the physician is placed.
"B.C. has just decided to do this because it’s a very concise program. It takes people that don’t need to do a full repeat of a two-year residency program in order to get a license,” Humber says. “(Doctors) already have a lot of clinical experience so it expedites them assuming they already have enough training. And you’re just trying to validate whether or not it’s a right fit to work in Canada because the training can vary so much."
Humber says the doctors are from a wide variety of areas but mostly are from Africa (Egypt in particular) and India. Roughly 20 doctors are selected per intake and are placed in communities in need at a cost of between $80,000 - $100,000 per doctor. Humber says while it is an expensive process, it’s a return on investment for rural health.
Fewer domestic students are choosing rural communities for their medical careers, Humber says, adding there are a variety of reasons why Canadian students aren’t choosing the rural areas.
One issue, she says, is a lack of distributed learning in urban centres which can add to longevity of training in rural medicine, which includes general practice; knowing 'a little bit about a lot of things’ and having the ability to work with limited resources.
"In the past most of the training has occurred in urban centres. There’s been quite a lot of movement in the past decade to try and have more distributed learning so there’s learning that’s occuring outside of the bigger sites. There is still movement in that direction and still room for improvement,” Humber says.
In addition, she notes graduates who have a lengthier term in medical school may have spouses and families which she says could make relocation difficult due to a lack of employment opportunities for husbands or wives and schooling opportunities for children.
Currently Ashcroft has one doctor and emergency services available on the weekends. Logan Lake has been without a doctor for more than a year.
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— This story was updated at 11:42 a.m., Aug. 18, 2015, to clarify the international doctors in the program are not currently medical students.