02/25/2014 10:57 EST | Updated 04/27/2014 05:59 EDT

Logan Lake residents angry at lack of action as last doctor departs

LOGAN LAKE, B.C. - Residents of a rural British Columbia town fear the lack of a local doctor beginning next month is a prescription for trouble.

Logan Lake residents crowded into a community meeting Monday night for an update about efforts to recruit a doctor to replace the community's sole general practitioner, who is leaving at the end of this week.

One man said the Interior Health Authority has known of the impending departure for months and still nothing has happened.

"Nobody seems to know anything, I don't even know why they are here, quite honestly," Bob Bogula said.

"We don't even have an interim solution of a stream of locums, we have nothing. I'm just disappointed, period."

Robert Hillyard said he was very disappointed in the health authority and the whole system.

"When we moved up here 11 years ago we had three doctors and now down to this," Hillyard said.

The departure of the current doctor means the 2,000 residents of Logan Lake will have to drive 45-minutes to Kamloops or Merritt for medical appointments.

After five years as the town's only family physician, Dr. Uzair Sheik has said Friday will be his last day.

The local nurse practitioner will extend her hours in order to help, making her available for appointments five days a week, but as of March 1 the emergency department at the health centre will be closed.

Interior Health spokeswoman Bernadine Easson told residents at the meeting that the search for a new physician is underway.

"We're going to continue to work very hard on that until we are successful," she said.

"Everything that we are providing is the information that we know at this time and we will continue to keep the community informed."

Sheik and his family plan to return to Africa, where he will open another family practice. He has said he's sorry to leave, but noted several challenges to remaining in Logan Lake, including a large, extended family in Africa and a climate very different from his homeland.

Recruiting and retaining doctors in remote and rural areas of B.C. is an ongoing challenge, Health Minister Terry Lake said.

"There are challenges in some areas of the province, and there always has been in rural parts of all of Canada and, in fact, in the United States," Lake said in Victoria.

"We've seen this play out through the 90s and through the last decade, as well."

A year ago, the provincial government and the B.C. Medical Association announced an incentive program that offers a $100,000 bonus for doctors who commit to three years in one of 17 designated rural communities.

In its first year, the program attracted nine new doctors who will serve Terrace, Chetwynd, Bella Coola, Hazelton, Clearwater, Princeton, Nukusp and Port Hardy. (CHNL-The Canadian Press)