Hope physician Dr. Joshua Greggain is a 2020 recipient of the rural service award from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada. Submitted photo

Hope doctor receives rural service award, after 16 years in Hope

Doctor Joshua Greggain said a network of services extending from Hope up the Canyon to provide care

A Hope doctor is a 2020 recipient of a rural service award from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada.

Dr. Joshua Greggain is one of 13 rural doctors who have spent over a decade serving rural communities from Tofino to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. In Greggain’s case it has been just under 16 years since he first stepped foot in Hope.

Doing his rural residency in Hope in the fall of 2004, Greggain remembers there being three clinics in Hope which operated in their respective silos. A year later he returned to work as a locum on weekends and in 2007 he took on a full-time practice here.

Greggain said it isn’t anything ‘miraculous’ that he’s done, rather his working in the community for these years has provided a sense of ‘leadership’ and ‘stability’ in the community, something he’s honoured to be recognized for. Working rurally, Greggain said, allows a doctor to wear multiple hats and see people through the various parts of the local medical system, resulting in ‘true integration and collaboration.’

Greggain’s ‘hats’ include being medical director of Hope’s two clinics (the Hope Medical Centre and the Fraser Canyon Clinic), site medical director for the Fraser Canyon Hospital and chairperson of the Chilliwack division of family practice which covers primary care practitioners from Chilliwack to Boston Bar.

Sixteen years since he arrived here, what exists is a ‘network of clinics’ and services in place to tackle difficult local health-related issues from Hope extending up to Boothroyd, Greggain said. As an example, he said he can pair a person who might need to see Sue Lawrence, a nurse practitioner providing care to vulnerable populations, with Dr. Aseem Grover who is running an opioid agonist program (prescribing methadone and suboxone, treatments that prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings for people who are addicted to opioids), with the Hope and Area Transition Society and Fraser Health’s addictions services.

“Suddenly there’s a network of services being provided for a challenging situation which is usually addictions or mental health,” he said.

Greggain has also been working hard on how to retain doctors in the community. Since 2013, when three medical clinics closed down within a span of two years and Greggain declared Hope in crisis, the community has avoided what other rural communities are dealing with as doctors retire early without anyone to take their place. It’s a luxury, Greggain said, to have doctors who want to stay and invest in the community, including physicians he sees as ‘emerging leaders.’

“You don’t lead on your own, right, you lead with a team of people who are providing the service and the care in a manner that makes sense,” he said.

“I hope that what I’ve done, more than anything else, is create a culture of care for people and that includes people being looked after in the community but also then laid an expectation that the physicians and nurse practitioners genuinely care about who they’re looking after, and they can walk alongside their their patients and their clients.”

Read more: How Hope is avoiding the rural doctor shortage

Last year, the Anderson Creek Health Clinic in Boston Bar celebrated its 10 year anniversary. This clinic, on-reserve and Indigenous-led, “really changed the landscape of the Canyon” Greggain said. He was one of the first physicians practising at the clinic.

Working with Indigenous clients is humbling, Greggain said, many of whom have had challenges accessing and navigating healthcare.

“You have the privilege to work alongside people who have walked a very different path than I have,” he said.

With the worldwide protest movement decrying systemic racism against black and Indigenous people, Greggain said he has been reflecting on being a “middle-aged, white physician” and his role in the Indigenous communities in which he works.

“I’ll never pretend to know anything more than what the community says about their experience,” he said. “The hope is that we get to work alongside those communities to help get the service that they want, not the service that I think they need. Because I’ve not walked a day in anyone’s shoes who lives on reserve, I’ve only been given the privilege to be there.”

The rural service award is one of 14 awards the society gives out each year, honouring the work of doctors, residents, students and leaders in rural communities across Canada. The criteria for the award include having lived and worked in rural and remote Canada for 10 years.

This is not the first nod to Greggain’s efforts in the community. In 2016 he was named a health care hero for Fraser Health at the BC Health Care Awards, as well as receiving Fraser Health’s 2015 Above and Beyond Award.

Last year the community of Hope itself was recognized for its efforts in rural healthcare with the society’s Rural BC Community Award.

 Healthcare practitioners from other parts of B.C. praised Hope’s model at a December celebration, with Dr. Stuart Johnston saying Hope is the only community doing the ‘bottom-up or grassroots’ model of healthcare.

Read more: Hope received 2019 Rural BC Community Award

Celebrating his latest award, however, will have to wait as celebrations set for April were cancelled amid the pandemic. Dr. Greggain is being invited to next year’s awards in April 2021.

Pandemic a ‘great amplifier’

Greggain said the pandemic has brought on ‘dramatic’ changes in medicine over the past three months and has highlighted work that is needed locally.

While the community of Hope, as well as the more rural Fraser Canyon and communities along Highway 3, have been relatively spared from the virus thus far, work is needed to prepare for the second wave Greggain said.

Critical for the area is transportation, in order to improve access to testing for COVID-19, patient transfers and other needs should the virus arrive in these communities.

Read more: B.C. adds 55 ambulances, air support for remote health care

The pandemic is also showing, ‘amplifying’ in Greggain’s words, what people value. For himself, he has valued the time with family, as well as the time connecting with patients which has largely happened over the phone and videoconferencing. And the value of family physicians, who have always checked in on their elderly patients and are doing so during COVID-19 times, is being valued by the province as doctors are now getting paid to do so he said.

Some services, such as mental health and nephrology (kidney care) have gone nearly completely virtual during the pandemic. This has resulted, for example, in a zero per cent no show rate for mental health appointments Greggain said, as obstacles such as transportation are removed.

“I’ve been on the virtual care bandwagon for some time,” he said. “Across Fraser Health…we really need to have a more robust virtual care strategy.”

Read more: Virtual mental health supports in B.C. during COVID-19

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com


Facebook and follow us on Twitter

DoctorshopeRural Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Search continues for person seen floating in Coquihalla River in Hope

Rescuers halted the search Thursday night as darkness fell

Missing Chilliwack woman has not been in contact with family for several months

The RCMP are asking for the public’s help in locating 35-year-old Chantelle Chenier of Chilliwack

Rescuers halt Coquihalla River search due to darkness, after reports of person in river

No information to indicate a child is involved, RCMP state, after this information surfaced on social media

Two Chilliwack women make weekly Crime Stoppers most wanted list

Ashley Felix and Raina McDonald wanted on unrelated issues

Kilby Park in Harrison Mills under water

Area is often subject to flooding, Historic Site will remain open through the summer

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Greater Vancouver home sales start to tick up, with prices holding steady

Residential sales last month reached 2,443, a 64.5 per cent jump from May

Langley Lodge’s deadly outbreak declared over

Fraser Health and long-term care home administrator confirm Friday declaration

PHOTOS: South Surrey tractor project evokes ‘$1-million smile,’ helps connect neighbours

Retired Surrey firefighter Ron Henze began project for friend’s dad to fill time during pandemic

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Most Read