FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Northern Health has issued a response to MLA Dan Davies’ December 16th letter outlining the steps the health authority has taken to address the shortage of lab service workers in Fort Nelson.

In the letter, Cathy Ulrich, president and CEO of Northern Health, detailed the actions taken to ease the impacts of the shortage.

She says there are currently two active job postings at the Fort Nelson General Hospital, which have been up since September 28th offering a $10K signing bonus for a two-year return of service.

The health authority is also offering a relocation allowance of $2,500 to $10,000 based on distance moved.

Over the past three months, two new Medical Laboratory Assistant positions have also been created at FNGH. Northern Health says a full-time position was filled, but recently became vacant after the staff member was accepted into a medical lab technologist program that began in January.

Ulrich says a second lab assistant from Fort Nelson is currently enrolled in the technologist education program and is set to graduate in 2023. Both students say they plan to stay in Fort Nelson and will seek full-time employment after graduation.

Before the lab assistant left the community to begin their education, Ulrich says a “focused effort” was taken to ensure that all elective lab tests were completed.

The former chief medical lab technologist in Fort Nelson is now the chief technologist in Dawson Creek and continues to travel to Fort Nelson every month. The individual plans to be in Fort Nelson for two weeks in January.

Nurses continue to perform after-hours urgent lab testing, and a new lab assistant will soon complete his orientation, increasing the capacity for lab outpatients.

Additional clerical staff have been assigned to assist the new assistant to enter patient data and package specimens to be sent to the Fort St. John Hospital for testing.

Northern Health says the health services administrator continues to meet with physicians and faculty health care team to discuss concerns which have identified two concerns: