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The grim reality of Cranbrook’s doctor shortage

Cranbrook's chronic physician shortage, where nearly 4,000 people are without a family doctor, is having different effects on different orphaned patients.

While for some of those patients who have this year found themselves unable to find a family doctor, the problem means long waits at the hospital for simple treatment of a cold or flu, for others it has life-threatening ramifications.

One of those patients is Richard Borho, who is suffering from liver failure and kidney failure, and this month lost both his family doctor – Dr. Rina Fourie at the Associate Clinic — and his kidney specialist – Dr. Karen Bronn, who was based out of East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

Borho, 47, needs a kidney transplant and a liver transplant, said his mother Diane McKay, who added that his spleen is no longer functioning properly and there is a mark on his pancreas.

Last month, Dr. Fourie closed her Cranbrook practice as she was moving out of town. No doctor has yet been found to fill her position.

Then last week, Borho learned from his kidney specialist, Dr. Bronn, that she too is leaving Cranbrook, and a new kidney specialist has not yet been hired to take her place.

“He came home last Friday, and he doesn’t have a kidney doctor, he doesn’t have a family doctor. He said to me, ‘Mom, I give up. No one is ever going to get anything done,’” said McKay.

“Dr. Fourie put Rick at the top of the list to have a new doctor, but I have enquired at both clinics – the Associate and the Green Clinic.”

Borho was told to phone the Associate Clinic first thing in the morning to see a duty doctor. But so far, when he does that all appointments have already been filled.

He was referred to a liver specialist in Fernie, but he was not given a referral to another kidney specialist outside Cranbrook, said McKay.

“We have no other kidney doctors here. That’s okay if he can get a referral, but he can’t get a referral because you have to get it from a doctor to go to a kidney specialist. We would go to Trail or Kelowna if we could get a kidney specialist.”

McKay said her son is starting to lose hope.

“I keep trying to build him up. I keep saying, ‘We’ll find somebody’. I’m on the computer every day looking.

“When you’re sick and you don’t have a doctor, it’s more depressing. He’s going to die if nobody helps him.”

Exacerbating Borho’s terrible situation is the low number of registered organ donors in B.C.

According to B.C. Transplant, while about 95 per cent of people in B.C. support organ donation in theory, only 19 per cent have officially registered to be organ donors.

“A lot of people actually think they are registered,” said Peggy John, a spokesperson for B.C. Transplant. “It used to be a sticker that you could put on your drivers license or your Care Card. That was before there was an official registry. In 1997, B.C. created the first database registry, which is a proper, informed donation legal consent.”

Registering to be an organ donor when you pass away is fast and simple. You can do so online in less than two minutes at www.transplant.bc.ca. All you need is the number on your Care Card.

For a hard-copy form, drop into any Re/Max office, or phone B.C. Transplant at 1-800-663-6189.

You can also look into living organ donations for a kidney or part of your liver.

Find out more at the B.C. Transplant website, www.transplant.bc.ca.

John said it’s important to have registered donors all over the province, not just in the Lower Mainland.

She said many people disqualify themselves as organ donors because of medical conditions or age.

“They often say, ‘Oh, they don’t want mine, I’m too old.’ Well, the oldest donor in Canada was 93.

“Even people with diseases – register your decision and let the doctors go through the process and figure it out.”

Meanwhile, McKay said she knows her son is not the only person in Cranbrook facing a life-threatening medical condition and unable to find a family doctor.

“I feel sorry for the people out there who are in the same boat as my son,” she said. “Can you imagine if somebody gets diagnosed by a doctor who says you have cancer, and then that doctor leaves and where are you supposed to go?”

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