Northern Health plans to build a new doctor's office at the Fort St. John Medical Clinic.
The health authority has renovations slated for the clinic's mall, formerly home to a pharmacy, hearing centre, and coffee shop, with a request for proposals having closed this week. It's part of ongoing efforts to provide "turnkey" ready space to meet the region's medical demands and staffing needs, and to bring more community health services under one roof, officials say.
"We're trying to be proactive so that we don't run into a situation where, oh my goodness, we need this new space renovated in a month or two months, and then we can't get that done," Angela de Smit, Northern Health's chief operating officer for the northeast, said in an interview.
Northern Health bought the medical clinic building in 2016 during a doctor shortage because it was purpose-built and designed by doctors — a key selling feature for recruitment efforts, de Smit said.
"We wanted it basically turnkey. They walk in, it's set up, and it's easy for them to start their practice," she said.
"Subsequently over the last two years, there have been regular conversations with the medical staff community about the fact there is a likelihood for additional physicians that will be required as the population starts to increase."
The clinic is already home to two private practices operating at maximum capacity, though there are some doctors accepting patients, de Smit said.
While a new practice isn't needed now, it will be in the future, de Smit said. At the same time, the health authority is managing an increased number of retirements and maternity leaves, and looking to consolidate other staff, she said.
Plans include relocating the North Peace Division of Family Practice to the main floor, opening space for Northern Health to move in community staff to support the doctors in a number of areas, from occupational and physio therapy to home support, primary care nursing to immunization and wound care.
"It'll really create a positive synergy by having those Northern Health Authority community services staff, as well as the primary care practice staff, within the same building," de Smit said.
The renovation plan includes three options that can accommodate up to seven doctors. The plan was designed with input from local doctors, de Smit said.
The health authority isn't yet releasing a cost estimate for competitive reasons, de Smit said, adding she's hopeful local contractors will submit their bids.
The renovations won't be completed until fall 2019 at the earliest, de Smit said.
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