FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Northern Health is aiming to re-establish orthopedic surgical services in Fort St. John to provide people in the northeast with care closer to home.

The health authority says one in four patients needing orthopedic surgeries has had those procedures outside of the region in Prince George, another health authority, or out of province.

“Building capacity to provide a trauma service in Northeast BC starts with a complement of specialists including orthopedics, general surgery, and internal medicine working in a team setting in Fort St. John,” said Northern Health board chair Colleen Nyce.

Northern Health says enhancement work to surgery services is currently underway, and estimates full implementation, including the launch of trauma services, by July 2023.

In the short term, the health authority is establishing orthopedic clinics and minor orthopedic surgery in Fort St. John, procuring the required equipment, and initiating training for hospital surgical services staff.

The current orthopedic surgeon in Dawson Creek will continue to perform elective orthopedic surgery, according to Northern Health.

As the orthopedic service in the region grows, visiting specialists from Fort St. John will also perform joint replacement procedures in Dawson Creek.

The health authority notes that general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and elective orthopedics will continue at the Dawson Creek Hospital.

“Maintaining general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology and elective orthopedic surgery in Dawson Creek is critical to the Northeast network of services.”

Dawson Creek will also continue to be the centre for inpatient psychiatric services in the northeast.