FORT NELSON, B.C. – Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Gary Foster says doctors in his area are without a vital tool in their toolkit in the absence of lab technologists in Fort Nelson.

Foster appeared on MooseTalks on Friday to discuss the progress being made by healthcare advocate Doug Blackie, the shortage of all healthcare positions in Fort Nelson, and the challenges of making things better for the people of the Northern Rockies.

Foster says, without lab technologists in Fort Nelson, bloodwork has to be sent down to Fort St. John.

“If you have chest pain, you go to the hospital and the first thing they do is draw blood. They want to know if you’re having a heart attack or if it’s something different,” said Foster.

“They analyze that blood in Fort St. John or Dawson Creek right away. In Fort Nelson, without those lab technologists, we’re at a disadvantage here.”

Without that tool, doctors have to make assumptions, and Foster says that’s not a good thing in medicine.

In an emergency, Foster says blood can be flown out immediately, but it’s not the optimal solution.

“Flying a vial of blood from Fort Nelson to Fort St. John is a waste of resources, and Northern Health recognizes this.”

Foster says the NRRM needs to cooperate with Northern Health to find solutions, and that’s something that healthcare advocate Doug Blackie is trying to do.

“In order to make progress in healthcare or in anything else, you have to cooperate with people, and Mr. Blackie recognizes that. If you want something done, the way to do it is to cooperate. If you just want to get some votes, the best thing to do is slam the table and jump up and down. Only one of them gets something accomplished, the other one is just noise.”

Another piece of equipment that Foster says is vital in the NRRM is a CAT scan machine.

“Without that piece of equipment, people can have very bad outcomes, and sometimes they pass away. So these things are very important to our community.”

Foster says things need to be done at a level above Northern Health.

“At the ministry level, things need to be done here and they need to be done differently. You need more people in healthcare is the bottom line. Sure, COVID-19 has been a big impact on this, but there are other underlying issues in the healthcare system that are presenting a lot of challenges to citizens.”

Foster says the NRRM’s remoteness is a factor.

“Unfortunately, in the Northern Rockies, these situations are being exacerbated because of our distance and our remoteness.”