Council has recently voted in favour of presenting a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities calling on the provincial government to more effectively retain medical specialists and services in Northern B.C. (Lakes District News file photo)

Access to medical specialists a concern: Burns Lake council

“Northern B.C. has limited access to timely specialized medical care”

Burns Lake council is hoping to improve access to medical specialists in the Burns Lake area.

Council has recently voted in favour of presenting a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities calling on the provincial government to more effectively retain medical specialists and services in Northern B.C.

According to the resolution, proposed by councillor Charlie Rensby, Northern B.C. has limited access to timely specialized medical care, which creates extended patient wait times and results in prolonged and worsening medical conditions that are often more quickly resolved in large urban centres.

“Every community in Northern B.C., aside from Prince George, is considered rural and remote under the Ministry of Health’s definitions. Therefore the Ministry of Health has an overall responsibility for ensuring that quality, appropriate, cost-effective and timely health services are available for all British Columbians,” states the resolution.

“Access to trauma services in rural and remote B.C. is a particular concern given the prevalence of resource-based industrial employment and the incident of transportation-related injuries,” the resolution adds.

According to Andrea Palmer, a spokesperson for Northern Health, specialized medical care in Northern B.C. is available in varying forms, including resident specialists, visiting clinicians and specialists, as well as Telehealth – the use of telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care.

READ MORE: Video links grow as rural health care shrinks

“We employ a number of strategies to support the health care needs of northerners as close to home as possible,” said Palmer.

“In Burns Lake, between summer and early fall, patients will be seen by 18 different clinicians/specialists, including psychiatry, dermatology, gynecology, rheumatology, geriatrics, oncology and more,” she said.

“The communities of Houston and Smithers are hosts to a number of resident specialists, including obstetrics and gynecology, dermatology, ENT (ear, nose, throat), general surgery, psychiatry, internal medicine, orthopaedic surgery and urology,” she continued. “These communities are also served by visiting clinicians and Telehealth, as required.”

According to Palmer, recruitment for medical specialists across the north is always ongoing. Challenges to recruitment include national and province-wide vacancies for some specialties, smaller communities of practice and lack of employment opportunities for the spouse.

“Northern Health uses a number of recruitment methods to attract physicians and specialists to Northern B.C. Part of the recruitment strategy is to appeal to the lifestyle people can enjoy in Northern B.C. with a low cost of living in many communities, outdoor recreation opportunities and short commute times,” she explained.

“We have a dedicated physician website, we pursue targeted advertising strategies and we target physician/specialist events and conferences,” she continued.

“There are various incentive programs, as well as different models of physician compensation aimed at attracting doctors to rural and remote area,” she added. “The partnership with the Northern Medical Program has also had a positive impact on physician recruitment.”

The next step is for the Burns Lake motion to be endorsed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) next month. The 2018 UBCM convention will be held in Whistler from Sept. 10-14, 2018.



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