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Report identifies four options to alleviate doctor shortage

A report commissioned by the City of Fort St. John to improve the doctor shortage has come up with four options — one of which includes the purchase or lease of space in the Fort St. John Medical Clinic.

A report commissioned by the City of Fort St. John to improve the doctor shortage has come up with four options — one of which includes the purchase or lease of space in the Fort St. John Medical Clinic.

The report does not suggest who should front the money, however.

Economic Development Officer Moira Green, who was involved with the report, said the city is not ready to discuss  how funding could be handled.

"We have not clearly identified that any of these options are going to solve our long term problem,” she said. “We need to identify a suite of solutions and then we will need to determine what level of government should tackle which piece."

The report, written by MNP, stated that as of January, there were 13 family physicians operating in Fort St. John. By September that number is expected to be 15. The latest Northern Health's Human Resources Master Plan — issued in 2006 — estimated the city would need 31 general practice physicians by 2010.

The report, titled Fort St. John Long Term Healthcare Solutions Partnership Committee, was presented to council Tuesday.

The Fort St. John Medical Clinic has seen the doctor shortage impact its operations. Two week ago, the clinic could not offer walk-ins on two consecutive days due to the ongoing doctor shortage in town.

The report comes with several options to tackle the problem.

The first option suggested was to build one or more new clinics at a potential cost of $16 million.

Another option was to lease other space within the city at a potential cost of $3 million.

The third and fourth options are for the purchase ($6 million) or lease ($700,000) of space in the Fort St. John Medical Clinic. Currently, the building is only partially used for medical services, with Northern Health leasing a portion for its unattached patient clinic.

Based on a scale developed by MNP, which included a variety of factors like cost and the ability to retain employees, the latter two options were given preference.

The plan is still in its early stages, and according to Green, it must go through other decision makers.

“The report is being presented to council first, as a matter of protocol, and then will be presented to the Short and Long term solutions committees [Tuesday] afternoon,” she said. "These committees are composed of local government, industry, community members, the business community and our health care professionals. Ultimately the solution will have to be one that is made in the North Peace.”   

The report’s author, Greg Molanthe, referred questions about back to Green. Questions sent to Green about how many doctors the city currently has were not answered as of press time.       

reporter@ahnfsj.ca

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that Northern Health did not respond by press time. Northern Health Communications Officer Jonathan Dyck did in fact reply well before deadline and information he provided was used in the report.