Fort St. John facing possible physician shortage

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

Northern Health Director of Communications Steve Raper explains that although Fort St. John is typically a stable environment for healthcare workers, some turnover is expected over the next year. However, he expects Northern Health will be able to recruit others for those positions over that time, hopefully reducing the impact of their leaving.
“People are talking about making some changes and that’s part of the reality that we have with all of our positions in Northern B.C.,” he argues. “That being said, we’ve been pretty successful at recruiting, lately in particular.”
In the meantime, Raper says as Northern Health learns of doctors’ plans to leave, the health authority will work to recruit replacements prior to their departure. He points to the Northern Medical Program as bringing and keeping doctors up north, as well as recent success filling vacancies in Fort St. James and Hudson’s Hope, and expects similar results in Fort St. John.
“We expect we’ll be able to do it,” he says. “Fort St. John is a vibrant, energetic community and we’ve been very successful in keeping and attracting physicians to that community.”
In addition to the Northern Medical Program, the province recently announced an incentive to bring doctors to rural areas, including Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge. Those are useful in recruiting, says Raper, but the key is finding the employees that will stay long-term and become part of the community.
“A key cornerstone of that is making sure that the physicians that we’re attracting are a good match for the community and we’re working hard to do that so that they don’t just come for one, two, three years,” he says, “they see it’s a place, it’s a lifestyle that they’re interested and they want to participate in, they want to bring their families and they want to stay for the long term.”
Northern Health is already working with physicians to try and mitigate any issues that may arise before these doctors are replaced, but as the Fort St. John Medical Clinic warns, wait times will likely increase.
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