“Whenever a clinic does close that’s been a regular clinic, it can put pressure on our emergency department,” he says, adding, “It doesn’t necessarily do that. The number of patients that would normally be seen at a clinic over that period is relatively small, so the pressure it might put on an emergency department might be an extended wait period but not necessarily a staffing issue.”
Raper points out that many other rural areas don’t have clinics, and rely solely on their hospitals for medical care. Residents are also encouraged to use the HealthLink B.C. website and call centre at 8-1-1 to determine whether a trip to the hospital is necessary.
“[HealthLink B.C.] provides medical advice in terms of people that are trying to get an assessment whether they need to go to emergency or don’t need to go to emergency, and we certainly encourage people to use that,” urges Raper.
So far this year several doctors have left the city, including the two who previously ran the North Peace Medical Clinic, which was subsequently shut down at the end of March. Northern Health is currently recruiting four General Practitioners for Fort St. John, and Raper says they have been successful in the past at attracting physicians to the area.
“We’re confident that we will be able to recruit physicians to the roles that have been vacated through moving and retirement,” he says. “What we’re really looking at is how do we bring Locums in and then in the long-term a full-time position to replace the ones that have left the organization or moved on to other areas to ensure that coverage is there for the long-term and sustainable for the future.”
Northern Health is also looking for a Locum position – a temporary replacement – as a General Practitioner, as well as one for the emergency room.