Fort St. John getting a walk-in clinic in January

It’s official – Fort St. John is getting a new walk-in clinic with doors opening in mid-January, Northern Health announced on Thursday afternoon.

Currently there are no walk-in clinics in Fort St. John. In April, the Fort St. John Medical Clinic closed its walk-in doors, citing a staffing shortage. The ABC Medical Clinic followed suit last month.

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The new walk-in clinic will open in the Fort St. John Medical Clinic, adjacent to the Unattached Patient Clinic.

Northern Health rents two-thirds of that facility. One-third is currently taken up with the Unattached Patient Clinic, to which they’ve been able to bring in one doctor and one nurse practitioner, as well as three locum doctors rotating through in the past month. The health authority will be using the other third for the new walk-in clinic.

North Peace MLA Pat Pimm said he’s hopeful they’ll start seeing more doctors coming to town.

Northern Health has offered up the space, but funds were needed for renovations and upgrades before it will be useable.

Pimm said he sent out an email on Sunday morning to some of his contacts, asking for the $20,000 needed to get the space ready for use. He said they reached their goal within four hours, and since then $22,000 more, with the extra funds going to recruitment and retention efforts.

“This is a true partnership of the community,” said Pimm on Thursday afternoon.

Doctors from both the ABC Medical Clinic and the Fort St. John Medical Clinic are lending a hand, committing brackets of their time on a rotational basis to staff the facility Monday through Friday, much like how the prenatal clinic operates.

“Is it going to be a challenge? Certainly it’s going to be a challenge. But our end goal is to attract more doctors to the community, and that’s what we’re shooting for,” said Pimm.

He predicted that by the middle of summer next year Fort St. John would see another four or five physicians.

He explained that the old fee-for-service model is less attractive to unestablished doctors due to high overhead. The new model, which is already applied to the Unattached Patient Clinic, has Northern Health in the role of a fee-for-service contractor that is able to attract doctors by offering them a guaranteed salary.

“That seems to be very attractive, especially for the younger doctors coming who have just finished their residency,” said Pimm.

This is the product of a committee formed several weeks ago made up of the MLA, mayors of Fort St. John and Taylor, chair of the Peace River Regional District, the Division of Family Practice, Northern Health, the Fort St. John Chamber of Commerce, Concerned Citizens for Healthcare, and industry.

They’ve been meeting every Saturday over the past five weeks.

“I’m seeing everybody working together to a final goal,” he said, adding that the committee would continue meeting, and they would have similar announcements about their progress in the future.

Pimm said recruitment and retention strategies were still high on the committee’s priority list, focusing particularly on getting resident doctors to the area.

peacereporter@ahnfsj.ca

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