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One less family doctor

The F.W. Green Medical Centre sent out 1,100 letters which effectively ended many Cranbrook residents' access to a family doctor.

The clinic has served notice to patients of Dr. Stuart Macdonald that they will no longer have a family doctor as of March 1, 2014.

Dr. Macdonald left his family medical practice to work full-time in the emergency department at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital back in July 2013.

"It is without a doubt a most unfortunate situation," Lorraine Alderson, F.W. Green Medical Centre administrator, told the Townsman Tuesday. "Dr. Macdonald left the clinic in July of last year to fulfil a need in the emergency unit at the hospital. We've been able to get coverage from doctors out of the area. We've arranged that coverage up until the end of February this year.

"We've reached a point where we don't have any more doctors willing to come into the area to provide coverage. It is a very unfortunate situation. Any patient that makes an inquiry, I am talking to them. The area is short of doctors."

The letter, signed by Alderson, notes that while physicians at the centre have been working to find a replacement for Macdonald, a permanent replacement has not been recruited.

“We have appreciated the privilege of being involved in your medical care,” the letter states, “however, as of March 1, 2014 you will no longer have access to medical treatment at the F.W. Green Medical Centre.”

Bev Evanchu has been going to the clinic since she and her husband moved to Cranbrook in 1978 from the Coast.

She was not happy to hear that come March they would no longer have a family doctor.

“It was wrong of them to let him go without making sure that there was somebody in place to begin with, especially knowing the situation of how many people in this area are without a doctor,” Evanchu said, adding that finding out about the dismissal from the clinic was akin to being dumped.

“It’s been a long association with that clinic and now we’re being told: ‘Sorry, you’re not welcome here,’” she said.

For Evanchu, being able to see a duty doctor at the clinic would alleviate many of the issues, as the only other option, if no spaces open in clinics, is to go to emergency for things like prescription renewals and check-ups for her husband, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Caroline Johnson also received a letter. Hers arrived on Monday.

“Having to go up to emergency to get a prescription filled is a waste of the patient and emergency staff’s time,” Johnson said.

“It’s mind-boggling.”

She said she understands that Cranbrook is not the only community suffering a doctor shortage.

“It’s only going to get worse here, because there are a number of doctors who are nearing retirement age,” she said.

“Until it hits you personally, you don’t really understand the  impact.”

The letter encourages patients to go to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia’s website to find information on  locating family physicians accepting new patients in Cranbrook. However upon search through the list of physicians there doesn’t appear to be any in Cranbrook accepting patients. The F.W. Green Medical Centre follows the college’s guidelines.

In council on Monday, Coun. Sharon Cross spoke briefly on the issue, noting it had come up during a recent urban governance meeting she had attended.

Cross said she was disheartened to hear about the 1,100 letters going out to patients that will no longer have a doctor in the community.

“So we not only have a shortage of GPs (general practitioners), but that is being compounded,” Cross said.

She noted that there is a need for something creative to happen.

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