Two permanent, full-time physicians have committed to Kaslo over the last two weeks, bringing the village to a full complement.
“This is fantastic news for residents of Kaslo and area,” Andrew Neuner, Interior Health’s vice-president of community integration, said in a news release.
“I’m proud of the work our Interior Health team and the Kaslo and Area D health care select committee, mayor and council and the community have done in successfully recruiting these new physicians. This was a challenging process at times, but in the end it was truly a team effort that made these recruitments possible.”
Interior Health pledged to find new physicians for the community in March 2013, after two physicians announced they were leaving their positions, one to open a private clinic.
Dr. Isabelle-Anne Fontaine started her regular schedule at Victorian Community Health Centre on June 16 and Dr. Ben Allen officially joins the Kaslo team on September 15. Both physicians have done a number of shifts at the health centre over the last few months prior to officially signing permanent contracts and Dr. Allen will be doing additional shifts in Kaslo over the summer. The new physicians will support primary health care and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday emergency department services in the community.
“We’re very fortunate to have found two highly-skilled physicians with diverse and impressive backgrounds who will provide excellent care to local residents,” said Dr. Curtis Bell, Interior Health’s community medical director. “Both physicians are a great fit for the community and having two permanent physicians brings stability to our services for patients of the Kaslo area.”
Interior Health did not, however, indicate any plans to return to round-the-clock emergency room coverage, which was reduced to daytime weekday hours only as of April.
Dr. Fontaine came to BC from Quebec and has been a family physician since 2007. Over the past six years, she practiced at the Family Medicine Unit in Levis, Que., teaching and supervising medical residents in family medicine. She has experience with geriatric patients in long term care units and has a particular interest in palliative care. She was a pharmacist for five years prior to becoming a physician.
Dr. Allen is originally from West Texas and received his medical training in Virginia. He is board certified in family practice in both the United States and Canada and is the 1988 recipient of the Lloyd Damsey Medal for Family Practice. He has practiced both primary care and emergency medicine at clinics, health units and military bases throughout North America, Asia and Africa. Prior to moving to BC, he founded and practiced at an urgent care clinic in Lethbridge. Most recently, he has supported primary and emergency care at the at various health centres around the province.
Both physicians have an interest in rural medicine and are coming to Kaslo for the professional and personal opportunities the community has to offer. Residents wanting to book a regular physician appointment can do so by calling 250-353-2291.
“On behalf of the Kaslo and Area D health care select committee and the residents of Kaslo and North Kootenay Lake, it is my pleasure to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Isabelle-Anne Fontaine and Dr. Ben Allen,” said Maggie Winters, a committee member and leading champion of local health care.
“We are confident they will be tremendous assets to our health centre and the talented and dedicated multidisciplinary team we currently have in place. We look forward to collaborating with Drs. Fontaine and Allen, and Interior Health staff on developing and implementing strategies to ensure a stable, vibrant and responsive health care delivery system going forward.”
Several physicians have been supporting the community as the search for permanent placements continued, including Dr. Fen Smit and Dr. Annemarie de Koker, who have indicated they will continue to provide locum coverage.
In a statement, Interior Health also thanks Kaslo and area residents for their patience during the process.