It's been a long wait, but Ashcroft finally has two, new doctors.
Drs. Tarang Peedikayil and Sarina Govindasamy arrived on Monday from South Africa to join existing Ashcroft physician Dr. Anoinette Kitshoff, who has been caring for the community with the help of locums since September.
"Oh, gosh, yes, you better believe we're thrilled as residents," said Esther Darlington MacDonald.
"We've being waiting for these people to come from South Africa for months. We knew they were coming but they had to jump through all the (immigration) hoops and everything."
Darlington MacDonald is a longtime resident of Ashcroft, which has a population of about 1,600 and is an hour's drive east of Kamloops, near Cache Creek.
The main health facility is the Ashcroft Hospital and Community Health Centre, which has a private clinic on the lower level. That's where Dr. Kitshoff has been working.
Ashcroft lost two doctors last year, leaving Kitshoff essentially on her own and forcing the hospital's emergency department to cut back its hours.
"It's been busy but we had some help from locums, so that helped a lot," said Kitshoff.
"There was a few weeks that I was run off my feet, but it wasn't too bad."
Kitshoff, who is from Pretoria, South Africa, helped recruit Peedikayil from Eastern Cape and Govindasamy from Cape Town. Perhaps no one knows better than she does the kinds of challenges that lie ahead as they settle into their new home.
"It's a culture shock," said Kitshoff. "First of all, there's 10 centimetres of snow outside. That's not something you're used to in South Africa."
Once the new doctors are settled, it's expected the hospital's ER will expand its hours.
"We're really delighted to have them here," said Bryan Redford, Interior Health's community area director.
The plan, said Redford, is to start the physicians at the clinic on Monday where they will begin an orientation period - learning where everything is, getting to know the patients as well as the computerized systems and protocols around billing.
"That's the first order of business - to get them oriented and get them going in the clinic," said Redford.
"As soon as they're at a point where they're relatively comfortable, then we'll be working with them in terms of the emergency room."
© Kamloops Daily News