Last Tuesday Northern Health, clinic staff and community leaders met regarding the doctor shortage here in Fort St. James.
“We had a great meeting,” said April Hughes, Health Services Administrator for Northern Health.
Two options for health care in the community were put forward by consultant Brian Spooner for the consideration of those in the meeting.
One of the choices for Northern Health and the community to partner to run the local clinic, which is currently privately owned by Dr. Stent. The other, preferred choice, according to Hughes, is the development of a not-for-profit society that would run the clinic with help from Northern Health.
Mayor Rob MacDougall said no decision had been made on which alternative was preferred at the meeting, and further discussion would be taking place when the group meets again on March 20.
“We need to sit down and see what our needs are here,” said MacDougall, and he said there may be an opportunity to be more efficient in health care delivery in the community by integrating more of the health services under one roof to eliminate any duplication.
He also said Dr. Stent had already recommended Northern Health take the lead role on running the clinic, with the community providing support in the form of possible fundraising and incentives to help attract physicians.
In the meantime all the parties involved are working on getting some more doctors up to Fort St. James.
“We’re working in partnership to attract and maintain doctors in the community,” said Hughes.
MacDougall said he would like to see the federal and provincial governments offer to forgive student loans for graduating medical students to help encourage them to go to rural areas upon graduation.
If the situation changes Northern Health will post notices, but until then the emergency room will stay closed.