For decades, Chase had a stable of solid, long-time doctors serving residents.
Dr. Steven Rollheiser practised in Chase for 27 years. Dr. Michael Vagyi took care of his patients for 50 years. One group of five physicians worked together for years.
That’s not the way it has been for the last few years. Rollheiser said the doctors and residents of Chase were
excited to try something new with the primary-care model, but it has fizzled because it was made complicated by changing administration and a health authority that had no experience dealing with primary care.
“These tiny primary-care projects were low on the priority list. They got bumped around quite a bit,” he said.
Chase’s centre had one of the best nursing teams Rollheiser has ever worked with.
He and his long-time colleagues got used to working on call, around the clock, sometimes without a nurse helping out late at night. But when efforts were made to recruit new blood, candidates weren’t willing to do the same.
“When we tried to recruit other doctors, they thought we were nuts,” he said.
As his kids got older, he moved his family to Kamloops and commuted to Chase. He has also been on staff at Royal Inland Hospital since 1981.
Eventually, he made the full move to Kamloops.
In Chase, doctors were eventually not required to do on-call work at night. Still, recruitment continues to
be a problem.
“I thought that was the biggest barrier to recruiting. Chase is a nice community and a good practice without the overnight obligation. So I’m really baffled why there’s difficulty recruiting there,” he said.
Rollheiser is optimistic that as students from the medical school in Kelowna get sent out to rural areas, the doctor shortage in the Interior will improve.
“It has a new sexiness attached to family practice that hopefully is going to play out in terms of young doctors being appropriately trained for rural areas,” he said.
“Rural med is being rebranded as edgy, challenging and more fun than anything, which I believe is true.
“When I think about the most meaningful, the most terrifying, the most vital stuff I’ve been involved in in my life, it was not here at the hospital, it was me and a couple of ambulance guys trying to cobble something
together in the middle of the night,” said Rollheiser.
“Chase is an excellent little community. It’s a great place to work.
If I was starting out, I would look at it.”