At a recent council meeting, we were provided with an update by our physician recruitment specialist, Marilin States. She has been in this role on behalf of the Creston Valley Health Working Group for 12 years. She is a person with extensive medical knowledge, a background in human resources and management, and has many years of “the Creston experience”. She knows what this area has to offer and has watched us grow into a community that is now more vibrant and full of life than ever.
In that time, we have been successful in bringing 16 doctors to the valley, three of which arrived this past year, with one additional physician due to arrive in spring of 2023. The Creston Valley Health Working Group also recruits for locums (physicians who work temporarily to provide coverage). For some of our resident physicians, this was their first exposure to Creston and area, and they have subsequently returned to provide locum services and even relocate here.
This community-based physician recruitment program was groundbreaking and continues to serve our valley very well. The funding for this service comes from the Town of Creston as well as the Regional District of Central Kootenay Areas B and C. A pivotal moment in recruiting doctors came with the building of our Creston and District Community Complex, and since then, our community has expanded what it has to offer in the way of vineyards, quality food establishments, a microbrewery, a rapidly expanding arts and creative community, and an increase in other amenities. When you add the scenery, the climate, the recreational opportunities, and the friendly people, the Creston Valley has much to offer those who seek to settle here.
We currently have 16 doctors with practices, some of which are part time or share their practice. The patient load per doctor varies, with an average of 800 to 1000 people, and they each also work scheduled shifts at the Creston Valley Hospital’s Emergency Department (ER) as well. We also have a few doctors who, while they no longer have a regular clinic practice, take rotations in the ER. Our doctors cooperate in keeping our ER open around the clock, and the very few closures we have experienced have been due to a shortage of support staff, such as nurses. By the staffing formula for this community, we are 2.5 positions from a full complement of doctors, so active recruiting continues. Our recruiting efforts have expanded to include other health professionals when there are other emergent vacancies that need to be filled.
Maintaining a 24/7 ER serves our community well. And because of the commitment to keep it running, we are not able to provide a walk-in clinic in addition to having an around-the-clock ER. For us, it’s one or the other.
I recently found myself in need of antibiotics via IV, so I was a regular at the ER for 10 days in a row. I was able to observe first-hand the service they provided, and met many staff members. I was also able to see the variety of daily demands on this service, and came away very impressed with their dedication and the quality of service they are providing. My wait times were never extremely long, but I was dealt with in the order of severity of all the people that were there for medical assistance, which is as it should be. To help keep our ER running smoothly, my suggestion would be that if you think you may be in need of medical assistance but are not sure, please consider using the services of the 8-1-1 HealthLink BC line. This free-of-charge provincial health information and advice phone line can provide answers to your questions, or connect you directly with a registered nurse (and other health professionals) and help you decide what your next step should be. It starts with simply dialing 8-1-1, any time of day or night, every day of the year. There may be other solutions that don’t involve an ER visit.
How do we compare with other communities similar in size? Very well actually, and one way to measure this is by the very limited times, we have had to close the ER due to not having the staff to keep it going. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, the ER was only closed twice, and again this speaks to the dedication of our doctors and medical staff here. Recruiting will continue, but we have what most people know as “the Creston advantage” on our side - and it’s working!