Northern Health releases report outlining health issues in northern industrial camps

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According to Northern Health, the economy in northern B.C. has a high level of industrial camp activity, which is a topic of concern and discussion for all municipalities.

The report begins by outlining various types of industrial plants, and states that due to such high volume of camps, there is a growing sense of urgency to address health related issues at industrial camps.

In the report, various potential health issues are listed off when considering life in an industrial work camp.  A camp’s atmosphere is one aspect Northern Health’s report says could have implications on the health of its workers.

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Referring to the Oil and Gas industry, the report compares camps, specifically oil/gas plants, to a prison like setting because workers have little to do on their own time. It also mentioned Fort St. John specifically, saying research had noted such camps produce a partying-all-night atmosphere, where workers are introduced to and enter drug scenes, a standard which is set by older workers.

Shift work was another aspect that the report claims effects the health of industry camp workers, discussing issues such as long hours and extended schedules, which can lead to health issues such as stress, obesity, depression, sleep disorder and substance abuse.   

Over the past four years, two separate surveys were conducted by Northern Health, examining economic development in the north to assist in planning for potential population changes which could impact health care services within service delivery areas.

Introducing the report to the Board was Dr. Ronald Chapman, Northern Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, who says there is still plenty of work needed to understand medical needs of northern employees.

“We know there is a transient work force in the north. We don’t know the complexity of their health challenges, where they might access services, and what services we may need to provide in the north for that group; and that’s work we need to do.”

The attached paper includes a large amount of information providing Northern Health an overview of the extent of activity taking place within industrial camps. Northern Health says the study raised a variety of questions that will require further research, which includes a more clear understanding of the impact industrial camps have on current health services.

Additional work is being undertaken, with Northern Health expressing their commitment to fully understanding the challenges faced by communities in the north.

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“We have made a commitment to a process of understanding the situation here first, and providing sustainable solutions that make sense next,” said Cathy Ulrich, CEO of Northern Health. “The challenge will be measuring the impact and providing recommendations and solutions to support communities in meeting the needs of this work force.”

To read the full report titled “Understanding the State of Industrial Camps in Northern B.C.: A Background Paper”, click the attached link.

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