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Northern Health working with Terrace and Kitimat physicians, communities to address staffing concerns

Northern Health
Information Bulletin

Northern Health is working closely with the physician communities in Terrace and Kitimat to find solutions to ensure the stability of primary care and emergency department coverage at both Mills Memorial and Kitimat General hospitals.

Northern Health shares the commitment of local doctors, nurses, and health care staff to ensure Terrace and Kitimat area residents have timely access to care, while addressing the needs for each community’s valued primary and emergency care providers to have adequate resources and rest. NH continues to recruit both permanent and locum physicians to the community, supported by Ministry of Health investments in primary care including a new physician compensation model.

Northern Health is pleased to confirm that five new physicians are expected to move to the Terrace area by November of this year, followed by an additional five new family physicians and four new specialists in 2024.

Several incentives and supports have been implemented to support recruitment and retention in the Northwest, including transitional housing for physicians and staff. Active work is underway in both communities to improve access to daycare for health care professionals. We are also looking at ways to stabilize and increase capacity for seniors care to reduce the burden on family practitioners and hospital resources, and recruiting nurse practitioners to work with family practitioners in local practice. In both communities, Northern Health is partnering with the community to develop additional collaborative solutions.

NH also recognizes the pressures on nursing staff in the Northwest and beyond; we greatly appreciate their dedication to providing high-quality care in challenging circumstances – whether the COVID-19 pandemic, or recruitment and retention challenges faced by the health care sector. We are optimistic the new collective agreement reached with the Nurses’ Bargaining Association will have a positive impact in the North, along with investments in improving staff recruitment and retention under BC’s health human resources strategy that will help us add and keep the staff we need to ensure high-quality patient care.

NH is committed to listening to and working with physicians and nursing staff on solutions for stabilizing local health services. We recognize the challenges facing us and their potential to impact critical care services such as ICU-level care, emergency room wait times and access to primary care providers in the community.

Every effort is made to prevent emergency department and critical care service interruptions. The ER in Terrace may at times have single-physician coverage during the summer months, compared to double-coverage that is normally in place, which may impact wait times. We carefully plan for any potential referrals or transfers for care elsewhere in the NH region or to other health authorities based on their care needs.

Northern Health is committed to Terrace, Kitimat and other Northwest residents having timely access to primary and emergency care, and on behalf of staff and physicians we ask for your patience and support for local health care providers and staff, as we work toward this goal.

Whenever possible residents with less-urgent care needs are encouraged to visit their primary care provider/family physician’s office during regular business hours, or contact the NH Virtual Primary and Community Care Clinic (10 am to 10 pm daily, including weekends and statutory holidays).

BC residents can also now book appointments to see a pharmacist for 21 minor ailments and prescription contraceptives.

Patients who aren’t sure whether their condition would warrant an emergency room visit, or who need health advice, can call HealthLink BC (811), or visit HealthLink BC for non-emergency health information from nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists 24 hours a day, seven days per week.