The health authority is developing a master plan for Tumbler Ridge that will asses how heath services can be aligned to meet community growth, projected shift in demographics, and anticipated changes in healthcare delivery through to 2035.
“We had heard from mayor and councillors that there is a lot of industry that is going to be going on in Tumbler Ridge, so we are doing this work to understand what that is and what impact it will have on our service delivery,” said Betty Morris, chief operating officer for Northern Health. “Tumbler Ridge has a diagnostic and treatment centre, and we’re just trying to understand if there will be a significant impact on that or not.”
She added while the process is a first for Tumbler Ridge, similar long-term planning processes have been undertaken for communities such as Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.
Morris said the master plan will use modelling to predict what the capacity of existing services are and if additional services will need to be provided to fill any future needs. However, on the specific issue of the availability of paramedical service in Tumbler Ridge, which falls under the responsibility of the BC Ambulance Service, she said that is not included in the scope of the planning process.
There is no doubt Tumbler Ridge is poised for an economic boom given the revival of the local coal industry that is being driven by demand from Asia. However, the town is no stranger to the sharp recessions that can result from resource reliance in an unpredictable global marketplace. Morris said while planning for the ups and downs of resource-based economies is a huge challenge, it is not unprecedented for other communities in northern British Columbia that have engaged in similar long-term planning processes.
“We need to try to anticipate what the future holds, and try to create enough flexibility in our delivery system that can expand to meet the booms and then contract to meet the busts,” she said.
Northern Health has already submitted a request for quotations (RFQ) to find a suitable contractor to carry out the planning process. The target date for the formal planning to begin after the RFQ is awarded in December is early in 2012. Morris said the process will include collaboration with local government, healthcare providers and other community stakeholders.