The great outdoors may attract a lot of tourists to Rossland, but it is attracting something else – doctors.
Rossland home builder and chamber director Cezary Ksiazek did some research and thinks there are more doctors per capita in Rossland than any other city in Canada.
“I looked at the number of doctors from (Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital) and found 57 of them with the 362 prefix on their home phone numbers,” he said.
He and his wife, internist Danuta Ksiazek emigrated from Poland 10 years ago. She was certified in the U.S.; did her residency and fellowship in Bethlehem, N.J. flew to Vancouver for an interview in Maple Ridge, and wound up in Rossland because of the sunshine.
“We were staying in a hotel and it was always raining,” he said. “Then one beautiful sunny day, I saw all these people sitting outside in the parking lot. I asked why they were outside and they said they were so happy to have a sunny day. I asked how many days in a year it rains and they said 300. So I asked where to go in B.C. for good weather and they said Kootenays.”
Ksiazek couldn’t find a town called Kootenay on a map, but subsequent googling led him to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, where it was noted they were looking for an internist.
“So we came for an interview and met Dr. Wagner, the cardiologist. My wife was interested in cardiology and he was retiring.”
Dr. Ralph Behrens invited them to stay in his home. They had dinner at the former Olive Oyl’s restaurant, hiked in the mountains, met tons of nice people and decided Rossland was it. They’ve been here ever since.
Dr. Jane Grey and her husband, orthopedic surgeon Rob Grey, came from England in 1981, urged on by the late Dr. Roger Crisfield.
“He and Rob trained together in England,” she said. “Roger was a big influence and guided Rob into orthopedics. He got fed up with the wages in England and decided to immigrate to Canada.”
They lost contact with each other for some time, other than the occasional Christmas card. Then one day, an invitation was presented.
“He called and asked if we’d like to come for a ski holiday. We were going to go to France but a couple of the children got chicken pox.”
Having missed their usual holiday, the Grey’s took Crisfield up on his offer.
“Rob was wowed by the skiing and there were a lot of ex-pat Brits.”
After three “fabulous weeks in Canada,” the family proceeded with immigration plans, took required examinations and settled in Rossland.
“We looked around at other communities but Roger tried to keep all his friends close,” she said. “We were in love with the town, the people, the whole area.”
Dr. Brian O’Flanagan is another doctor who came for the lifestyle and never left. He and his wife immigrated originally from Ireland and came to Rossland from Vancouver in 1972.
“I came for the opportunity to learn how to ski,” he said. “At the time, it was like it is today. Every community was desperate (for doctors).”
What he found in Rossland was a diversity of people and friendships.
Retired for nine years now, O’Flanagan is active in Rossland Rotary and still does locums.
“We’ll stay as long as I can enjoy winter,” he said.
KBRH chief of staff Trudi Toews agreed that Rossland likely has more doctors per capita but that only means, “More doctors LIVE here, not work here.”
Toews came to Rossland to ski “for one year.
“I’ve now been here for 37 years.
“I think they come because of the lifestyle and job opportunities. With Trail being a regional site, family practices, obstetrics – it gives a good balance.”
She also noted that doctors in this area have more colleague support compared to small towns with only three doctors.
“So if one is away, the others aren’t burning out. There is enough depth to the physician pool.”
She is also optimistic that Trail, being selected as an outreach hospital for the UBC medical program, means more young physicians will be exposed to the area and may choose to come back here.
Anesthesiologist Dr. Iain Reid, who hails from New Zealand, says Rossland wouldn’t have so many doctors in residence and KBRH wouldn’t have the number of specialists and family doctors if it wasn’t for efforts of Dr. Ken LeRose and the former building and maintenance supervisors at the hospital.
“He had the foresight 15 or 20 years ago, seeing the value in having a regional hospital with specialists. If a kidney is damaged, you need a nephrologist; if it’s the bladder, you need a urologist, if it’s the hip, you need an orthopedic surgeon; and an anesthesiologist – so they all become a team. They don’t have that in Nelson.
Ron Parisotto and other building managers made sure the hospital was kept in tip-top shape.
“The (medical) community is phenomenal. The other significant factor is the hospital foundation which has kept the hospital so well supplied with equipment.
“The people of Trail made it the centre it is today.”
Reid and his wife, general practitioner Susan Benzer, settled in Rossland in 1995.
“I initially came to Canada to ski and met Susan while here,” he said. “We traveled back and forth to the area to visit her family.”
(Benzer is the daughter of Montrose’s former mayor, Art Benzer.)
When the couple decided to move here permanently they picked Rossland over other communities in the area “because of the skiing and recreation. It’s beautiful up here above the clouds.”