September 2019 will mark two years since Laura Bantock was hired as the executive director of the Sun Peaks Community Health Centre.
After arriving in the fall of 2017 she was tasked with setting up the clinic and recruiting at least one doctor to serve Sun Peaks and the surrounding area. Now the clinic features two doctors, four University of British Columbia family practice residents, a mental health worker, seasonal locum doctors, and sexual health clinics. Dr. Shane Barclay also teaches countless medical students.
As the bustling office welcomes and treats patients each day it’s being recognized behind the scenes as an example for other clinics and Barclay is receiving accolades for his teaching and patient care from the Royal Inland Hospital Physician Association.
Bantock had set up medical clinics in B.C. before, and used that experience to get to work. She started with recruiting Barclay.
“With Dr. Barclay I knew right away we’d have a great partnership. I see us as a very strong base team,” she said.
With a doctor on board they needed patients. Of course Sun Peaks and valley residents would register as patients, but with a year round population of around 1,000, and an average panel size for a doctor of 1,200, Bantock knew they would need to take on more.
With this in mind she worked alongside the Ministry of Health to develop a process which would see the clinic take patients off of the provincial 811 list (a list for those without a family doctor to register their need).
“Because we’re rural we wanted to provide those prospective patients with information,” she said. “For example, there’s no public transit to get here, there are winter road conditions…I felt to be efficient for the patient and everybody concerned we wanted people to know.”
Working with ministry executives she helped design a process to contact patients who fit the centre’s attachment criteria, give them information about the clinic and community and attach them to a doctor. The process they created is now being used by other clinics to take patients from the 811 list, something that was previously difficult.
“We shared the workload between the ministry and us. Supporting each other to get the job done.”
The project resulted in the ministry’s nomination for a Premier’s Award which they will learn the result of in the fall.
Now most patients are coming from word of mouth or from other doctors retiring. As the panel nears 2,500 patients Bantock said they’re getting close to full.
Around 1,000 patients are from Sun Peaks or nearby, the remainder from Kamloops.
“It works for people because they’re so deeply thankful to have a family doctor,” she said. “And in the winter another 1,000 seasonal workers arrive. They’re people (who have health concerns) and they need healthcare.
They’re the whole workforce that keeps the resort running. They need onsite, accessible healthcare. So many of these young people don’t have transportation to get to Kamloops.”
With some of the major tasks behind her, Bantock isn’t slowing down.
She’s also developed relationships with Sun Peaks’ ski patrollers and paramedics who respond to the resort.
One of the benchmark moments for the clinic, and Bantock, was when an ambulance called from Kamloops for a person experiencing anaphylaxis brought the patient to the health centre instead of Royal Inland Hospital.
“They understood the clinic was open, that we’re equipped and we can deal with this. We monitored that patient and were able to release them home.”
In the past year she’s also added a Fotona laser, used to treat patients with medical or cosmetic concerns. The machine can help musculoskeletal injuries, treat mild to moderate stress and urge incontinence, remove moles, lessen snoring, decrease visible veins and more.
As it’s largely not insured it provides revenue for the clinic, which is still largely financially supported by the municipality.
But that’s something else she’s working to change. Now on the board of directors for the BC Association of Community Health Centres she’s working with other clinics to negotiate for provincial funding.
“We’re right smack in the middle of primary health care reform and we don’t know what that will look like yet. My hope is that we will get direct funding.”
Also on her to do list is getting LifeLabs to the village at least once a week, increasing community education events, seasonally opening seven days a week, adding telehealth and teaching people that it’s not a private clinic.
She’s also working to be designated as return of service clinic, which would see doctors return for two years after their residency.
“I’m extremely proud of what Dr. Barclay and I have been able to achieve here with the backing of the municipality. I’m very happy with the staff we have here, it’s a very healthy and strong team,” she said. “Our shared vision has been a force to be reckoned with.”
While making the clinic the best it can be, she also recruited her husband, Dr. Chip Bantock, to work at the clinic a few days a week. Now both working on the mountain they’ve moved up full time and are building their own home in the community.
“This will likely be the last part of my career…our team all contribute maximum effort to make the biggest positive impact on patients health that we can.”