VICTORIA, B.C. – Health Minister Adrian Dix commented on the success of recruiting and retaining more healthcare professionals in the north, but he says there are still some challenges.

At the weekly COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Dix pointed to the need for both immediate and long-term solutions to help ease pressure on hospitals and healthcare staff in Northern Health.

“Solutions such as training nurses in the north, for example, what we’re doing in Fort St. John, adding seats for health sciences professionals in other parts of the north,” said Dix. “Those efforts are continuing. I think the measures are successful, but it’s a very dynamic situation.”

Dix says there are things to be positive about in the north, specifically, the work done by ambulance paramedics and staff that are supporting people in the north, especially a workforce that is tired from COVID-19.

“The efforts made by ambulance paramedics and staff and other health authorities to support people in the north are heroic efforts, but they have left a workforce that is beyond tired of, not just COVID-19, but all of the other challenges they face.”

Another success Dix shared with the media was recruitment in places like Mackenzie.

“I was talking to the mayor and council of Chetwynd late last week about the successful recruitment of nurses to that community who are coming in May.”

While recruiting new healthcare professionals helps ease the pressure on the system, retention is another key part of the process.

“If you keep your current workforce in place, that means there are obviously dramatically fewer people to replace.”

Last year, the president of the Ambulance Paramedics & Dispatchers of BC, Troy Clifford, pointed out the recruitment challenge that was affecting the entire province. He says while other agencies offer incentives to move to remote communities, he feels the best way to keep staff is to recruit locally.

“Not everybody is going to move to Fort St. John, but if you recruit from people who live there and have meaningful work to offer, then they’re going to stay in those communities.”

As of Tuesday, the Northern Health region has 1,136 active cases.

There are 10 people in hospital, one of whom is in critical care.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 279 people have died of COVID-19 in the region.

Over 185,000 residents have received both doses of a Health Canada approved vaccine.