Kinmount on the hunt for another doctor as Mihu retires

By William McGinn

Kinmount's Dr. Elena Mihu is retiring this year, and the village is currently looking for new physicians.

It’s the end of an era. At least in a week.

The doctor’s office of the tiny village of Kinmount has been undergoing significant shifts this last year. With the retiring of a doctor of almost 25 years, they’re not out of the woods yet. Dr. Elena Mihu is retiring, and they are now looking for new physicians.

Mihu was the first physician to ever set up practice at this location in 1999. The building was formerly a township office and was turned into a health centre in 1998 due to municipal restructuring. Mihu explained she and her husband were looking for a new home at the time and were on a road trip. Finding themselves in Norland, they could’ve gone left at a four-way intersection to Minden, or right to Lindsay, and chose to go straight to Kinmount, where they also saw a street sign featuring a fundraiser for the new health centre.

About a year into her employment, she was approached by film director Alastair Brown, who got funding from the National Film Board (NFB) to release a documentary, A Country Doctor, about Dr. Mihu’s story and her life treating patients. Dr. Mihu said it was Brown’s dream to make a movie about a doctor in a small town. It was released in 2002.

In 2022, Kinmount was looking for a new family physician, and an advertisement campaign began. For this, the health centre has a volunteer foundation. The recruitment process is led by foundation member Alan Howard, a retired teacher. He explained to the Advocate that the foundation deals with many things, ranging from upkeep of the facility to physician recruitment.

Unfortunately, according to Susan Forrester, a member of the foundation, physician recruitment is no longer as simple as it was when Mihu was recruited. “Despite advertising widely, locally, provincially and nationally,” Forrester explained, “Kinmount was unable to attract another family physician.”

It wasn’t until they engaged the services of the B.C. recruitment firm, Physicians For You, which specializes in international recruitment, for a fee of $20,000, that they got some interest from Dr. Lesslie Ponraja from Ashford, England, who wanted to practice family medicine in Kinmount. Ponraja, who prefers being known as Dr. Lesslie, will be the sole physician in the centre while they look into further recruiting.

This recruitment process took about a year, and involved Dr. Lesslie getting Canadian certification, getting his driver’s licence, finding accommodation, and opening a bank account, among other things. Then there was the matter of getting licensed to practice medicine in Canada, in which Dr. Lesslie had to get certification of his training approved by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, a licence from CPSO, and had to register with the Medical Council of Canada. In addition, he currently has to face a new 25 per cent foreign buyers tax.

Howard said they are redoing this process to find new physicians, and that “we never really stopped.”

“We have a few people who are in that sort of ballpark, of coming in with queries and résumés, but not someone immediate right now. It can be a year-long process to find someone to work in this position in a rural area, but we’ll find someone.”

Meanwhile, Mihu officially retires Aug. 31, with Dr. Lesslie taking over her full roster of patients. Mihu is looking forward to spending more time outdoors, and resuming hobbies, like kayaking, which she hasn’t done for years, and sewing, which she’s been doing since she was just a preteen. She is also a longtime member of the Kinmount Lions Club; her husband is the current president, and she is excited to be a part of more meetings and events.

“When you’re in a close community like Kinmount,” said Mihu, “you always run into somebody at the grocery store who is hoping for an update on their blood work. We feel like one big family here.”

A retirement celebration for Mihu will be held at the Kinmount Community Centre on Saturday, Sept. 16 from 2-4 p.m.

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