Physicians who make house calls are few and far between. Those who go back to their old communities to help out at the hospital regularly are even rarer.
Dr. Jason O’Connell practised in Ashcroft for five years before moving to Kamloops in 2001.
For more than a decade, he has returned to Ashcroft at least one weekend a month to cover the hospital’s emergency room.
And for that, the Ashcroft Cache Creek Seniors Group sent a public note of thanks to The Daily News.
Group member Barb Shaw said Monday if it wasn’t for O’Connell, the Ashcroft and District General Hospital emergency room would be closed a lot more.
The community has two doctors who provide coverage on certain weekdays and at least two weekends a month.
But O’Connell’s return visits — which start at 6 p.m. on a Friday and end at 8 a.m. on a Monday — have helped prevent those doctors from burning out, she said.
Even though Ashcroft is only an hour’s drive from Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, there are times when medical help is needed in the community, Shaw said.
“We’re only an hour from Kamloops, I realize that. But in the winter, it’s a nightmare,” she said.
“I think of our people and they deserve it.”
Shaw, who has had five open-heart surgeries, said there is a lot of uneasiness in the community about keeping the hospital open. O’Connell’s regular assistance helps, she said.
“We (Ashcroft) have more seniors than we had for a long time. We’ve all turned that point all at once. We’re no different than the rest of the province, really. And our staff is really good. They do assess and if need be, they try to get patients into Kamloops or do what they can for them,” she said.
“For Dr. O’Connell to make sure we have the coverage, that’s awesome. We appreciate it very much.”
O’Connell said he has a few reasons for continuing his ties to Ashcroft.
He can empathize with the two doctors in the community and how much workload they have.
“When I was in Ashcroft, there were ongoing problems with a doctor shortage. There were times when there were just two of us, covering the emergency room full time. You burn out pretty quickly. It’s not sustainable long term,” he said.
As well, he has emergency medicine training and wants to keep his skills in tune. Since he doesn’t do ER work in Kamloops, Ashcroft is a good outlet.
The biggest reason, however, is simple.
“The main reason I go out is there is a need.”
That he gets to see some of his old patients is a bonus.
That they’re grateful is understandable.