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Northern Health adjusting services to strengthen patient safety

Northern Health
News Release

Northern Health is planning temporary services adjustments to strengthen patient care due to existing staffing challenges and Omicron related COVID-19 staffing pressures.

“Northern Health is proactively identifying services to be adjusted as we manage the ongoing staffing impacts on the health system, to ensure we can continue to provide safe patient care,” said Northern Health president and CEO, Cathy Ulrich. “Existing staffing challenges in the North are compounded by Omicron-related impacts, and some staff will need to be temporarily reassigned within communities in the region, to ensure essential service levels.”

The temporary service changes include:

  • Surgical service postponements are planned or ongoing in the coming weeks at University Hospital of Northern BC-Prince George, Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers, and at Northeast BC facilities including Dawson Creek & District Hospital, impacting both surgical and ambulatory care procedures
    • Wrinch Memorial Hospital is postponing or not booking approximately 20 procedures including scopes and dental procedures for the week of January 23
    • Bulkley Valley District Hospital is reducing from two surgical slates to one, postponing 10-12 procedures per week between January 16 and January 29
    • In Northeast BC, Dawson Creek & District Hospital is reducing surgical bookings over the next three to four weeks
  • In long-term care, staffing at sites across the region is being monitored on a daily basis;
    • Several LTC facilities in the region have paused admissions and are operating fewer beds to ensure safe provision of care within existing staffing levels
    • There are temporary reductions across the NH region to adult day programs and non-urgent home health services
  • Temporary reductions across NH to outpatient ambulatory clinics, some community care services, and outpatient laboratory services in some communities
  • Situation response teams are in place to support site managers in Hazelton and Burns Lake, as both communities are experiencing staffing challenges across all facilities and services

Patients and clients affected by service level changes will be contacted directly, as Northern Health assesses impacts and reviews alternate options for care. NH is focused on and committed to restoring service levels in every community as soon as possible, as rates of staff absences due to illness decline, and ongoing recruitment efforts succeed in filling existing vacancies.

“The pandemic has placed inordinate pressure on health care workers in Northern Health across all service areas, but we have also seen innovation and creativity in addressing these challenges,” said Ulrich. “I thank everyone working in health care in Northern BC for their extraordinary commitment and dedication to the health and wellbeing of northerners.”

Northern Health continues to engage with local leaders, partners and communities to answer questions and work together through this challenging time. Regular community updates can be found here.