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Elkford mayor continues to advocate for improved rural health care

Elkford’s mayor Steve Fairbairn is continuing to push for solutions to the community’s healthcare struggles.

Staffing issues led to a ‘temporary’ closure of Elkford’s Emergency Department on September 29, 2021, and it has been closed ever since.

Fairbairn said the lack of healthcare has been hitting residents hard, as Elkford residents have to leave the community just to see a family doctor.

“If you have chronic health problems, it’s an issue to have to go to another locum every time,” said Fairbairn. “It concerns people. the lack of emergency care is concerning.”

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Fairbairn the community’s ambulance service has also been experiencing a staff shortage.

“The concern is compounded by the mess the ambulance service has been in in the last few years and the lack of assurance that there’s an ambulance there if you need it,” said Fairbairn. “The people on the ground are who have been keeping the service going without sufficient support from bureaucrats and administrative staff further up the line. It’s a daily thing that weighs on people’s minds.”

Elkford’s district council is doing what it can to attract doctors and other health care staff.

Fairbairn said this can be helped indirectly, as well, by addressing the community’s housing needs.

“It’s a massive issue of advocacy and not giving up the fight,” said Fairbairn. “You need good health care to get people to want to live in your community.”

In the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District meeting on Friday, Interior Health requested more funding for a number of projects.

One of those initiatives was a request for $68,000 to renovate the Elkford Health Centre to create an additional treatment and consultation room.

Fairbairn felt this will not adequately address the community’s needs.

“The roof is leaking again – it has been repaired repeatedly, it was built for a population approximately 50 per cent of what exists in the town now,” said Fairbairn to the Interior Health representative. “It is crowded, it’s out-of-date, it wasn’t built for the kind of technology that exists today or the skillset of the many locums who pass through our doors.”

“I’m curious to know why you’re going to take an already crowded facility that houses very worthwhile services that didn’t exist when it was built, and you’re going to try to take it and make more space inside,” said Fairbairn.

Fairbairn feels the best option would be a new clinic altogether.

“Putting lipstick on this puppy is not going to turn it into a pure-bred dog. In all due respect sir, I’d be much happier to see a request for a replacement of the clinic in my town, on behalf of the citizens of my town,” said Fairbairn at Friday’s meeting. “I’m kind of disappointed that this is all you’re looking at.”

Fairbairn said he and the district council will keep pressuring Interior Health to get solutions in place for Elkford’s health care crisis.

“To be a good advocate, you have to listen, you have to be patient. I really believe you have to find the solutions that you can bring to the decision-makers because they’re not going to come up with the solutions on their own,” concluded Fairbairn.

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