Program offers chance to bear medical fruit

KBRH chosen as teaching hospital for UBC pilot program.

Recruiting doctors and specialists to rural areas is tough. As so many medical professionals across the country retire, this crisis in care is heightened, with many communities unable to provide even basic services. Compounding the problem of trying to draw newly-graduated doctors to small towns is they are quickly swept up by big hospitals in urban centres where they either attended school as medical students or grew up. It’s much more desirable, after all, to specialize in cardiology and neurology at a health-care facility that has a raft of other such specialists, offering both the ability to tap into peer expertise and take time off when desired.Additionally, once acclimatized to the cultural and retail offerings of a bustling city, new doctors (or any young professionals, for that matter) tend to be disinclined to leave for a small town where even grocery stores close by 10 p.m. at the latest.That’s why the news Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital has been chosen as a teaching facility is so important to the area. The partnership between Interior Health and UBC’s southern medical program will see two third-year pre-med students come to live and work in Trail for a year. They will diagnose illnesses, treat  patients and provide follow-up care .While KBRH has fared better than nearby hospitals in Castlegar and Nelson, retaining both its regional designation and strong financial support from the community, it has not been immune to the  “not enough” quotient in health care. In 2007, family physicians who helped deliver babies at KBRH stopped seeing new patients, citing 120-hour weeks with low on-call pay. There were not enough other doctors willing to exhaust themselves with the unforgiving schedule, thus they eventually refused to continue until the situation was resolved in 2008.That year, general internists complained they were burning out; there were not enough of them to cover all the vacation periods in the intensive care unit. This meant patients were sent to other hospitals at times, adding stress and potential complications to their recovery.So while it may not seem earth-shattering that two medical students are coming as part of the training program, it’s a good first step in bridging the rural-urban recruitment divide.Having them experience the plethora of recreational offerings and be immersed in the West Kootenay’s laid-back lifestyle may be enough to lure these bright minds back here to practice medicine permanently. One of the doctors involved with the program noted evidence shows students are attracted to work in the area they are born. While offering a slice of life here over a year won’t have the same effect, it will have an impact. It’s also a feather in the cap of our medical professionals to have the Trail hospital chosen to participate in the pilot project. For that, we tip our hats. May the program lead to a steady flow of new doctors opting to practice in our area.