In the spring of 2022, it was announced that Northern Health would resume an orthopedic surgical service at the Fort St. John Hospital (FSJH), along with expanded trauma services. Orthopedic surgery has been provided in nearby Dawson Creek since the early 1980s, however due to the high demand for these surgeries and the urgency of many orthopedic surgeries (due to traumatic injuries) patients in the Northeast are often required to go to other centres for care, such as Prince George, Grande Prairie, and Edmonton. Re-establishing the trauma and orthopedic services in Fort St. John will benefit patients and families and allow for more integrated community care.
Moving and shaking things up
This work is already underway. The first big step was to relocate Dr. Stephanus van Deventer, orthopedic surgeon, from Dawson Creek to Fort St. John. This move provided the opportunity to maintain orthopedic services in Dawson Creek, while helping to train staff in Fort St. John and build the orthopedic surgical program there. Elective orthopedic surgeries for small and large joints continues in Dawson Creek. We’ve also recently welcomed Dr. Dion Steer, a general surgeon, to Fort St. John.
A huge plus for the people in Northeast BC
“We see this as a big win for patients in the Northeast,” says Angela De Smit, Chief Operating Officer. “We have taken steps to create a high-quality, sustainable service supporting trauma patients and patients with higher acuity needs in the NE.” In fact, the redesign will allow Fort St. John Hospital to work towards offering 24/7 coverage for trauma-related specialties including intensive care, general surgery, and orthopedic surgery.
Being able to offer these services in Northeast BC means that patients needing critical care can be cared for closer to home, their financial burden will be lessened with respect to travel and accommodations, and time away from home and wait times for surgeries will be reduced.
If you build it, they will come
While this work began in the fall of 2022, the expansion project will take place over three years, as staffing and capacity allow. Northern Health is already aggressively recruiting to support existing staff vacancies, and as this work progresses, more positions will be created to support the additional surgical volume. Current staff will also be offered more training opportunities in trauma and surgery to develop their skills.
With a provincial investment of $2.2 million, Northern Health is hoping that this program (and the new specialized equipment) will also be a recruitment booster, bringing more specialized health care professionals to the Northeast. Recruiting additional orthopedic surgeons is the current focus.
Fort St. John will be the Northeast hub for trauma and orthopedic surgery. The intent of all this effort is to create a network of services that share a skilled surgical workforce and strong, reliable patient transfer options. Stay tuned as we continue to provide updates on the work, and feature some of the staff who are bringing this program to life.