Residents of New Denver brought some Christmas cheer — and a request for a doctor — to MLA Katrine Conroy’s Christmas Open House in Castlegar. (Photo: Jesse Schpakowski)

Residents crash MLA’s office in health-care protest

West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy was visited by New Denver residents trying to secure a permanent doctor

A group of New Denver residents brought a seasonal touch to their efforts to secure a permanent doctor for the community last week.

The group crashed West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy’s Christmas open house in Castlegar to sing about their ongoing need.

But the caroling protest, to the tune of “Frosty the Snowman,” was all in good spirit, said one of the singers.

“This was just a friendly Christmas ‘thank you’ to Katrine Conroy and her staff, to thank them for the help they have given us so far,” said Colin Moss, a New Denver councillor and chair of the Slocan Chamber of Commerce’s health committee.

The group is upset that, after attracting a physician to live in the community of 500, the government can’t seem to draw up a contract for the doctor.

“We just wanted a festive spirit, to let Katrine know we are still fighting for physicians to keep our health centre alive.”

While all in good fun, and good cheer — the carolers gave Conroy flowers after the song — Moss said the group is dead serious about their need.

“We’re fighting tooth and nail and will continue to do so. We are backed into a corner,” said Moss. “Why cannot the provincial government, the Interior Health Authority, provide a physician with a simple contract?

“It’s been six months, I don’t know what this physician’s plans are, but you can’t expect someone to hang on forever without a contract.”

New Denver residents have been working hard to secure a second doctor for the community for more than a year. Around this time last January, Interior Health announced it was cutting back emergency hours at the community health centre.

After a protest, the decision was reversed and the community began sending out feelers for more doctors.

“Without a health centre we are going to lose residents, we are going to lose businesses,” Moss said. “We’re fighting to revitalize our communities. How are we going to attract new residents, new businesses?”

While Moss says they haven’t received an answer from the province’s health authorities, Conroy said the community may not have to wait much longer.

“We are working hard and we are hoping to have positive news by January,” she told the Castlegar News.

After the singing protest, the carolers stayed to enjoy some Christmas snacks and drinks, all in the best tradition of the season.

“We’re a non-confrontational. We believe in co-operation before confrontation,” said Moss. “It’s worked well, we still have a functioning health centre when the popular opinion was it wouldn’t last past last April.”

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