DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Virtual doctors will be helping Dawson Creek Hospital fill vacant nightshifts for the next couple of weeks.

Dr. Brydon Blacklaws, Real Time Virtual Supports (RTVS) Program Co-Lead, says Northern Health and the Dawson Creek Hospital have tried several options to fill the shifts over the past month.

“To get the call from Northern health and the Dawson Creek medical community to step up to cover the nightshift is a real honor for us. We’re taking it very seriously”, said Blacklaws.

The RTVS program connects healthcare providers to an on-call physician through Zoom or telephone for rural, remote, and First Nations communities in B.C. The program offers 24/7 coverage for several medical situations, including emergency, critical care, and pediatrics.

“To have a virtual service assist in a community the size of Dawson Creek is really groundbreaking.”

Blacklaws says he tips his hat to the medical team in Dawson Creek and Northern Health for identifying a need and leaning towards the RTVS as a creative solution.

“This program is designed to have doctors immediately available who are not working another job, who are available by video, and are committed to improving and excellence in virtual medicine, while we gain more and more experience and knowledge in rural B.C.,” adds Blacklaws.

The hospital will be utilizing the Rural Urgent Doctor in aide, or RUDi,  in the emergency room for the next few weeks through the program. There are physicians on-call at all times of day among 25 doctors from across the province through RUDi.

“We also have options like calling the local surgeon, the local GP-Obstetrician as well as transferring patients to other communities and other hospitals.”

The virtual physicians are able to issue bloodwork and CT scans, and if a ground doctor is needed, the patient will stay the night to be assessed in the morning.

“When you’re working really are often all by yourself it can be a bit lonely, frankly, and a bit challenging when you’re doing these hard cases by yourself or with one or two other staff and just really wish you’d have a colleague at the bedside with you. That’s what we’re trying to be via video”.

Blacklaws says ground nurses are the real heroes in making the program succeed as they’re doing more work than usual.

“They have to do a bit more history taking more physical exam, examination, and they’re also babysitting us, doctors, on the iPad, that they wheel us around with to meet the patients. They have been superstars. The nurses in Dawson Creek have gone above and beyond to make this program a success.”

The RTVS program started around 1.5 years ago through a partnership between the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, First Nations Health Authority, Provincial Health Services Authority, Providence Health Care, BC Emergency Medicine Network, and UBC Department of Emergency Medicine.

For more information on the RTVS program, head to the Rural Coordination Centre of BC website.