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Enhancing orthopedic services in the Northeast

Northern Health
News Release

Northern Health is re-establishing an orthopedic surgical service in Fort St. John to enable a higher level trauma centre and more complex orthopedic surgery to be provided in Northeast BC. Orthopedic surgical services will be increased in Fort St. John, together with other trauma-related specialties including Critical Care, Internal Medicine, and General Surgery.

Surgical services in both Fort St. John and Dawson Creek play a significant role in meeting surgical demands in the region. The current orthopedic surgeon in Dawson Creek will continue to perform elective orthopedic surgery, and as the orthopedic service in the Northeast grows, visiting specialists from Fort St. John will also perform joint replacement procedures in Dawson Creek. NH will maintain a surgery program that includes General Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Elective Orthopedics at the current and future Dawson Creek & District Hospital facilities, and Dawson Creek will continue to be the centre for inpatient psychiatric services in the Northeast.

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

Service enhancement work is underway, with full implementation including the launch of trauma services, in approximately 16 months (July 2023). The immediate steps that are underway include establishing orthopedic clinics and minor orthopedic surgery in Fort St. John, procuring the required equipment, and initiating training for the Fort St. John Hospital surgical services staff.

One in three patients needing elective surgeries, and one in four needing orthopedic surgeries, currently have those procedures outside the Northeast region (in Prince George, in another health authority, or out-of-province). Building specialist capacity in the Northeast will enable more surgeries to be done closer to where people live, by increasing the complexity and volume of orthopedic surgery, as well as the level of trauma services available. A higher level trauma service based in Fort St. John will enable access to surgery and emergency care closer to home in the Northeast, with fewer people requiring travel to centres outside of the region.