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A new year, and a new doctor for the Northern Rockies

Fort Nelson could have a new doctor as soon as February 2016.

Fort Nelson could have a new doctor as soon as February 2016.

There are currently three full-time physicians and one part-time physician who live, work and practice in Fort Nelson, according to Becky Temple, Northern Health medical director for the northeast.

A fifth doctor is expected to wrap up a 12-week practice readiness assessment at the end of the January.

“She is doing her assessment right now in Dawson Creek, and if she is successful in that assessment she will then begin her three-year return-of-service in Fort Nelson,” said Temple.

Meanwhile, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality has committed to re-evaluate its physician recruitment program after staff learned some municipalities are attending medical conferences and placing ads in medical journals to recruit doctors, which the Northern Rockies has not been doing. 

“It may prove timely that a review and reassessment of the options and incentives available through the NRRM be conducted,” reads a staff report to council at its Nov. 23 meeting.

Typically the responsibility of recruitment is up to the Northern Health.

“Normally it isn’t the city government that attends these things, it is the health authority and the health authority is responsible for the majority of the recruiting,” Temple said. 

She added that the municipality can help with recruitment efforts once there are candidates that are eligible to practice, but the first and most important factor is understanding whether a physician is licensable or eligible to practice, and that’s outside of the knowledge base of the city, or in this case, the Northern Rockies.

The municipality is projected to need between five and eight doctors for 2015 to 2020, Temple said. 

A new doctor should be welcome news for the municipality, which is also moving ahead with plans to bring non-surgical maternity services to the community.

For the past five years, Fort Nelson has not had maternity services. Pregnant women have been advised to leave the community before their due date, said Jaylene MacIver, acting director of community development with the municipality.

 At its Nov. 23 meeting, council voted to delve deeper into the possibilities of providing low risk pregnant women the option of staying in Fort Nelson to have their baby.

 The municipality is launching a community engagement process to gauge public interest, and is arranging a meeting with BC Emergency Health Services to address the challenges around timely and reliable air ambulance service. 

The Northern Rockies is interested in emulating a non-surgical maternity program that has operated successfully in Haida Gwaii for over 10 years.

 Part of its success is due to the fact that, in the event of emergency, a medical helicopter is on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week.