Extended delays possible at FSJ Medical Clinic as doctors depart

Photo by Erica Fisher

Patients of the Fort St. John Medical Clinic can expect an even longer delay in getting an appointment as the clinic grapples with the looming departure of two more community doctors.

In May, Drs. Pieter and Jana de Bruyn announced their departures from the Fort St. John Medical Clinic effective July 10, exacerbating an already stretched healthcare system in a city facing a severe doctor shortage.

In a joint statement posted today on the clinic’s website, the remaining doctors say they will continue to provide a wide-range of services at the Fort St. John Hospital, and that they only expect that workload to increase.

“With the further departure of physicians from Family Practice and the community, this work load is expected to increase and will thus decrease the amount of time we are able to be in our office providing care to our own patients,” read the statement from Drs. Moody, Watt, Page, Mackey and Hamill.

The doctors provide anesthesia, emergency, and obstetrics services, along with operating room assistance, and inpatients care at both the hospital and for residents of Peace Villa.

“Because of the decreased physician numbers, patients can expect that it will be more difficult to make an appointment and there may even be days that there are no physicians available in our clinic, due to them being committed elsewhere,” the statement later reads.

Northern Health has previously said it will have up to six new physicians arrive in Fort St. John by fall. It has said it will also continue working with the North Peace Division of Family Practice Physicians in Fort St. John on recruitment and workloads.

The doctors say they have been working for two years to find replacements for the de Bruyns, but have been unsuccessful. They anticipate further discussions on the matter to happen with Ministry of Health and Northern Health officials planned for July.

“Without additional support there simply are not enough of us to continue to care for the 11,000 patients on our books, while continuing to offer the many hospital-based services we provide,” the doctor’s said in their statement.

Northern Health has set a benchmark goal of 31 family doctors for Fort St. John. The arrival of the new doctors this fall will push the doctor count to around 19, still well short of what is needed.

Calls to the doctors were not immediately returned. A Northern Health spokesman was not immediately available to comment.