News — 13 July 2012
By Jennifer Thurbide

The Ear Falls medical team will be welcoming a new member at the end of this summer as Dr. Aaron Kahn has accepted an offer of employment and is relocating to the north with his family. Last December Dr. Nicolaas Botha announced his intent to leave the community and Executive Director Wendy Gatrell says residents didn’t have to wait long before they had a potential new candidate.

“Recruitment is a very tough job and takes long hours of emails, posting on websites, and touring in person around Ontario,” said Gatrell of the recruitment efforts. “I went on a trip to Montreal for Dr. Recruitment at the Family Medicine Forum and our physician vacancy was also posted on many websites. Dr. Khan saw our physician vacancy on the website Health Forum Ontario Jobs site and called the office to obtain further information.” Gatrell says she encouraged him and his family to come up for a site visit and tour the community. “They came up for two weeks in March and again the first week of April.”

It was on one of these site visits that Dr. Kahn says his family decided Ear Falls was the place they would like to settle into. “My wife and daughter had stated to me that they found the people here great, welcoming and friendly and they look forward to coming out here,” said the physician during an interview from his new office at the Medical Centre. “I am looking forward to working here and being part of the community. You can sit in the job and be the person in the job or you can be part of the community and that is my intention – to be part of the community.”

Kahn comes to the area with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field, much of which was spent as a member of the Canadian military. Starting his distinguished military career in 1992 as a ship’s doctor and a diving medical officer, Kahn says he moved quickly through the ranks and had opportunities to train with and for the US Navy and the Royal Navy in England. “The job I had through the longest duration of my career I was Chief of Diving in Submarine medicine and I worked for NATO headquarters and chaired their medical panels. I really enjoyed that – that is what I had wanted to do when I joined the military. I wanted to be a diving medical officer. When I had the opportunity to become the Chief of Diving for subs that was my primary interest being fulfilled and I did that for six years. I had done what I really needed to do in the military.”

After turning down the chance to move into the administrative ranks of the Canadian Forces, Kahn ended his 17 year military career and is now focussing on private practice and reconnecting with his family, much of which is still located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “I grew up in the north – Lynn Lake, I am most comfortable in the north… This is close to Winnipeg where most of my family is and I don’t really want to live in the city. I would like to live in a wilderness area…[Ear Falls] gives me the best of both worlds -be around my family and enjoy hunting and fishing.”

Kahn is expected to start full time with the clinic on August 27, 2012 however, on his short visits over the last few months he has found time to see patients which Gatrell says has shored up community support for the relocation of the physician. “When you are recruiting for a physician the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care provides the salary and funds so the physician can come up and do a site visit… The municipality is part of that as well as they contribute to the overhead for the physician at the clinic and they also contribute to the further recruitment and provide the physician with a free home. The only thing that we were short was the relocation money… When I put the [fundraising] notice out I only sent to community groups to get relocation money. Word got out and I had people come to the clinic personally wanting to contribute.”

Gatrell says in a short time more than $10,400 was raised in the community with Goldcorp Red Lake Gold Mines contributing $5,000 and the Ear Falls Lions Club, Whispering Pines Seniors Club and the Ear Falls Legion Branch 238 making up the balance of the donation. Funds will be provided to Dr. Kahn to cover moving expenses.

Speaking on behalf of Whispering Pines last week new President Ron Bergman said of the club’s donation: “The Whispering Pines Seniors Club is very pleased to be able to assist in the recruitment of a full time doctor. Our club recognizes the importance of having a full time doctor in the community. We feel that doctor recruitment is the most important priority that a community can purse.” Bergman also offered his thanks to the Medical Centre Board, Gatrell and the locum support provided to the community during the transition.

Northern medical crisis over?

Despite going six months without a physician in residence Gatrell says the community was well serviced by locum support as well as from a regenerated relationship with the Red Lake Medical Associates.

“During our vacancy we had worked with the Red Lake Medical Associates – hand in hand with us and anytime I didn’t have a locum coming in Red Lake physicians came to Ear Falls and helped us with seeing patients here which was great. That had never been done before and it worked out really well. We appreciated it both on the clinic side and the community to have coverage.”

She furthered: “We went quite a long time, a year and a half or two years without a physician before Dr. Botha came in. And it was hard to get locums to come in periodically. Red Lake wasn’t in a position then to give us a hand because they only had two and a half physicians themselves. With the success of them being able to fill their roster and get all seven physicians in they were in a better place and were able to help us out. It has been terrific. The working relationship between Red Lake and ourselves has just gotten stronger and better and we want to continue on that way.”

Mayor Kevin Kahoot welcomed the new community members and noted “We are very fortunate we didn’t go a long time without a doctor. The ministry has been really courteous to us as far as filling in the time between when Dr. Botha left to the time Dr. Kahn is arriving. We are very fortunate as a lot of communities would love to be in our situation with a full time doctor on board.”

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