Five family doctors closing down their Cranbrook practices

Physician shortage worsens as 3,000 people will be added to those without a family doctor come July

More than 3,000 people in Cranbrook will be without a family doctor next month as five physicians are closing down their family practices this year.

Dr. Sheela Mistry and Dr. Rina Fourie at the Associate Medical Clinic will both close their practice in July, leaving about 1,800 patients without a doctor.

Dr. Bob Cutler at the Green Clinic is retiring this summer, meaning his 1,400 patients will no longer have a doctor.

Dr. Stuart Macdonald at the F.W. Green Clinic switched from family practice to emergency medicine in March. His 1,000 patients were mostly covered by other doctors.

Dr. Helena Buchar at the Green Clinic is moving her practice to Kimberley, and many of her patients will travel there to remain in her care.

“The more concerning cases where we are going to have a great deal of unattached patients are Dr. Cutler, Dr. Mistry and Dr. Fourie,” said Dr. James Heilman, an emergency physician at East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

“We have 3,200 people who currently have a family physician, and who will not have a family physician come July when these three physicians are either leaving or retiring.”

It’s normal for doctors to leave for various reasons, he said.

“Dr. Mistry and Dr. Fourie are moving to be closer to their family, which is completely understandable. Dr. Cutler has had a very long career and he has served our community for many, many years. He has just come to the end of his career. These different things have combined to result in three family physicians leaving.

“People leaving communities is a normal part of business; the question is why are we having so much difficulty recruiting new people to replace them.”

Physicians who work in the Cranbrook hospital’s emergency department are concerned about the effect on health care in the community as people who no longer have a family doctor are forced to visit the emergency department whenever they require medical attention.

“Currently in the emergency department, we see about 22,000 patient visits a year,” said Dr. Heilman.

“If we have another 3,200 people who come to the emergency department on average three times each, that could increase the amount of patient visits we are seeing in the emergency department by nearly 50 per cent.”

There is only one physician working at a time in the emergency department, he explained, aside from five hours a day when there is two.

“If your volumes increase by 50 per cent, one issue is that the space within the facility just isn’t set up to handle that,” said Dr. Heilman.

“The second issue is that it’s not just physicians, it’s also nursing staff and unit clerks. There is not enough of any of these to handle a 50 per cent increase in patient volume.”

That will mean longer wait times, which means patients become frustrated, which has a negative effect on staff in the hospital, he explained.

“We within the emergency department do our best to see people as quickly and as safely as possible. The longer people wait, justifiably the more people get upset about the duration of the wait. If we do see our volumes increasing by 50 per cent, we will do the best we can to help people, but wait times could be substantially longer.”

What’s more, emergency physicians don’t have the same kind of training and skills as a family doctor, he said. For instance, Dr. Heilman hasn’t performed a pap test since he graduated from residency 10 years ago.

“That’s just not part of emergency medicine,” he said. “The scope of care in the emergency department – what services we provide – are different than those provided by a family physician.”

Hospital doctors are asking for patience from people who are waiting at emergency.

“The emergency department is likely to become busier and there are going to be longer wait times,” said Dr. Heilman. “We request people’s patience with respect to being seen.”

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. A local committee made up of physicians, elected officials and business leaders are working to recruit doctors to fill the eight positions now vacant in Cranbrook.

On Wednesday, June 18, members of that team will speak at the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The general public is invited to attend the luncheon and hear about initiatives to recruit family physicians to the East Kootenay.

Tickets cost $20, and it includes a buffet lunch. Registration is essential; phone the Chamber at 250-426-5914 before June 17 to reserve a seat.

Stay tuned to the Townsman for more information about physician recruitment in Cranbrook.

Just Posted

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Ryan McKenzie of the Kimberley Trails Society made an in-depth presentation to City Council describing the initial steps of the Electrify the Mountains eBike trails project. This is a look at the project one map.
Kimberley City Council hears details on Electrify the Mountain project

At the meeting of City Council on Tuesday, June 8 Ryan McKenzie… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

Most Read