Kootenay Boundary faces shortage of psychiatrists
The region’s medical shortages continue, despite Castlegar finally having a full contingent of general physicians – the issue now being a shortage of psychiatrists.
Cheryl Whittleton, Heath Service Administrator for the Kootenay Boundary, said three local psychiatrists have resigned in the past six months, leaving the region with six practicing psychiatrists, two thirds the norm, and none of whom are in Castlegar.
“They live in various communities, but provide service for the entire Kootenay Boundary,” Whittleton said. “The priority now is supporting the inpatient unit at the Daily Pavilion in Trail, where we offer 24/7 coverage.”
She said they are still committed to providing services to rural areas, recognizing that mental health patients are often the most marginalized and can’t always travel to a regional hospital.
“It’s important to understand that when we get a referral to our mental health office, we have a team in place that does intake and triage,” she said. “There is a call service, so we have access to the psychiatrist at all of our offices (via telephone). There are other health care professionals and teams that can support people who come in looking for help.”
She said psychiatrists aren’t the only avenue for help and that, in fact, there is a team there to help any patient, whether they are in crisis or not.
“We just really need to ensure that the public doesn’t believe they don’t have access to services and support,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said Castlegar has a full complement of family physicians, but the city and IHA are proactively recruiting in anticipation of some of those doctors eventually retiring.