Regional directors are invited to participate in a first-ever online forum designed to aid Interior Health in finding doctors for some 150,000 people.
“It is very ambitious. Very big,” Bohdan Zacjew of Siena Consulting told the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board Thursday. “It’s the first time anything of this nature has been attempted on a region-wide level.”
The project is a collaborative effort that includes Interior Health, the Thompson Division of Family Practice and the Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice. Zacjew was joined by IHA vice president Andrew Neuner and doctors Shirley Sze and Rod Dickey.
Zacjew proposed a web-based forum for the nine Interior regional districts and more than 200 regional directors. Conversations would take place in discussion threads dedicated to each district. Directors would comment anonymously.
Questions about which strategies work and what obstacles work against bringing physicians into each community would be asked.
The threads would be open for three weeks starting April 15. Each thread will be monitored and the findings compiled into a report by the end of June, said Zacjew. A recruitment strategy will be developed from there.
Some at the board table balked at the idea of an online forum. Director Sally Watson is concerned about negative comments and dialogue, as is found in some newspaper forums.
Zacjew said there’s no conceivable way to hold 90-minute focus groups in each regional district.
“You just don’t have the time. It’s not going to work,” he said, adding the only people involved in the discussion are Watson’s board colleagues.
But Zacjew is willing to consider commenting by name only.
The conversation often went off topic, with directors concerned about the dwindling number of physicians in his or her community or, in the case of Cache Creek, why their community isn’t on an Interior Health map of the region.
Director John Ranta wanted to know if his community was excluded because there are no physicians, and if Interior Health will correct that.
Neuner said he is doing everything in his power to bring a physician to Cache Creek, but added there are three doctors and a hospital in nearby Ashcroft.
Director Andy Anderson said he’d like a fourth physician for Ashcroft. The doctor could be “loaned” to communities in need like Cache Creek and Lytton.
Some directors believe the money can be better spent. Ken Christian said spending $60,000 to learn what’s going on in rural B.C. is foolish when all one has to do is read a newspaper or talk to staff at a clinic.
He believes more local medical students should be encouraged to study family medicine and practice in his or her hometown.
After the meeting board chairman Randy Murray said the TNRD will participate in the forum if it proceeds as planned.