Personal Feel of Canmore General Hospital Benefits Staff and Patients

For more than 35 years, Dr. Rick Balharry has worked as Chief of Medical Staff at the Canmore General Hospital. In addition to his extensive career in medicine, consistently served as the voice of administration to staff, bridging the two groups.

“Most rural hospitals tend to be a little more intimate,” said Dr. Balharry. “People work together more as a team rather than as individuals.”

Dr. Balharry started working at the Canmore General Hospital in 1979. At that time, it was still a ten-bed hospital at its original location, where it initially been founded by the mining community and run by volunteers. Dr. Balharry was part of the planning process of the current facility, said Barb Shellian, Director of Bow Valley Community and Rural Health for AHS.

It only took two years at the hospital for Dr. Balharry to step into the role of Chief of Medical Staff in 1981. Since that time, he’s seen the number of physicians with privileges at the hospital grow from five to 92.

Despite the growth, the hospital maintains the atmosphere of a small-town, community-focused space. That makes the hospital a good place for staff, said Dr. Balharry. That atmosphere in turn benefits the people the hospital serves from the Bow Valley and surrounding areas.

It’s “a nice feeling to patients,” said Dr. Balharry.

Just as there are benefits to working in a smaller community, there are also challenges. Specifically, when it comes to provincial funding.

“Getting anything except absolute essentials” is difficult, said Dr. Balharry.

With strong support from the Canmore and Area Health Care Foundation, the hospital has been able to provide better care. From a fetal heart monitor to colonoscopy equipment, Dr. Balharry has seen funding that comes from the community return directly to improving the medical care they receive.

“The thing we need to emphasize to our own community is to have pride in our hospital,” said Dr. Balharry of the hospital’s future.

“He is respected by his colleagues for his wisdom and experience,” said Shellian. “Dr. Balharry has been a stable and prominent influence at the Canmore General Hospital for close to four decades and he has been a role model for patient-family centered care.”

Dr. Balharry said he looks back on his career – his work in the emergency room, obstetrics, operating room and general medicine – knowing it was a privilege to be part of the hospital community.

“It’s been a beautiful place for me to spend my medical career,” he said. “From administration… to the janitors… they’ve been very pleasant people to work with.”

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Dr. Rick Balharry, Chief of Medical Staff at the Canmore General Hospital, continues to run a private practise in town. Since his start at the hospital in the early 1980s, Dr. Balharry has worked in every hospital department.

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