Princeton’s desperate need for a new doctor became obvious when it was announced PGH’s emergency department would close four times a week starting May 1.
Interior Health Authority, the organization responsible for recruiting doctors to Princeton, has been searching for a new doctor but has yet to find one.
This begs the question – why is it taking so long to find another doctor for Princeton?
This is a complicated question. The doctor shortage has partly to do with Canada’s strict rules on hiring foreign doctors and the fact that most young graduates prefer to work in large cities.
But Princeton is in a unique situation, different than other B.C. communities.
Is there room for another doctor in Princeton?
Princeton Hospital’s emergency department will be closed from midnight to 8 a.m. Monday to Friday starting May 1.
These scheduled closures are likely to last a year, said Interior Health when they made the announcement on April 2 at a town council meeting.
Another doctor is needed to fill these emergency department shifts because the three doctors currently in Princeton can’t cover the shifts completely.
“There aren’t enough patients for four doctors in Princeton,” said Princeton’s newest doctor Evaristus Idanwekhai, more commonly known as Dr. Eva. He has been practicing in Princeton for two years.
“If a doctor came to Princeton to look after the ER only, he wouldn’t survive.”
Because the doctors have individual clinics an additional doctor would not get enough patients, Eva said.
If all the doctors worked in the same place, two more doctors would be able to work in Princeton, in addition to the three already here, he added.
And another doctor is key to running the emergency room full time.
Interior Health will be talking to Princeton’s doctors within the next month to try to come up with a solution to the doctor shortage.
“In Princeton, we have fee-for-service, payment for being on-call and additional funds to encourage the physicians to keep the emergency room open during scheduled hours,” said Dr. Jon Slater, senior medical director, acute services west for Interior Health.
“We would use all of these mechanisms to attract people.”
The new doctor could also offer industries in town occupational health advise, he said.