Team play wins for health care in Clearwater

December 21, 2022

(PHOTO CREDIT – Kalen Jones) Clearwater leaders got together last summer to celebrate the resilience of their physicians. Front row (L-R):  Past Mayor John Harwood, Coun. Shelley Sim; Dr. Sandra Okezue; MP Frank Caputo; Yellowhead Community Services Vice Chair Shirley Frost; Coun. Barry Banford; Coun Lucy Taylor; Medical student Anmol Mattu; and Dr. Kayode Bamigboje; Back row (L-R):  CAO John Thomas; Obi Okezue; regional district director Carol Schaffer; Mayor Merlin Blackwell and Coun. Bill Haring.


Between April and September 2022, Clearwater hospital was forced to close its emergency department almost 60 times due to emergency department RN staffing vacancies.

But instead of finger pointing, people from multiple agencies talked together about how they could make a difference. And then they went to work.

Interior Health, the District of Clearwater, individual health administrators, Clearwater mayor and council, community residents, hospital nursing and non-nursing staff, physicians, the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice and the B.C. Nurses Union worked to find solutions to a complex problem.

The end result – no closures since early September.

Mayor Merlin Blackwell is proud of the united effort that went in to supporting Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital and its emergency department.

“All of us are acting as recruiters and promoters of the community,” he said.

The mayor spoke about the Clearwater situation to his peers at the Union of B.C. Municipalities, saying he believes the key was getting to know the people in the health-care system so conversations in a spirit of trust could take place.

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