The Ministry of Health, in partnership with Northern Health, is responding to an urgent need for more primary health-care resources in Fort St. John by funding three new nurse practitioners for the community's unattached patient clinic.
The nurse practitioners will work as a team, side-by-side with physicians in the community to provide primary-care services, including annual physical examinations, patient counselling, health promotion, immunizations, diagnosing and treating short-term acute illness, and monitoring and treating chronic illnesses, like diabetes. These three new nurse practitioners will be able to care for additional patients in the community.
The Province anticipates the nurse practitioners will be recruited within the next few months and will begin working in the unattached patient clinic shortly after. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, and to help with recruitment efforts, the government is providing funding for a temporary living allowance for lodging and moving expenses to help make the nurse practitioners' transition to Fort St. John seamless. Fort St. John is experiencing a booming economy and this makes recruitment of health professionals a challenge, as the community must remain competitive in the face of increased housing and living costs.
The government has asked HealthMatchBC to immediately begin work to recruit the three nurse practitioners for Fort St. John, as well as to step up targeted efforts to recruit additional doctors or locums for the community. HealthMatchBC is a division of the Health Employers Association of British Columbia and was created by the Province to recruit physicians and health-care providers nationally and internationally. HealthMatchBC has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Health, all health authorities, regulatory agencies, and the UBC faculty of medicine to attract family physicians to underserved communities throughout British Columbia.
The new nurse practitioners are an important step to improve primary care in the community. Northern Health and Fort St. John will continue to work to recruit primary-care partners, and have seen some progress to date, including the creation of an unattached patient clinic that sees an average of 45 patients per day, a prenatal clinic for mothers and babies, as well as the continued promotion of locum and permanent positions at conferences, online and through the efforts of two dedicated recruiters.
Nurse practitioners were introduced to B.C. in 2005 to assist in improving access to primary health-care services. British Columbia has the ability to educate up to 45 nurse practitioners a year, 15 at each of the University of British Columbia, the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria.
Today’s announcement supports the work the Ministry of Health is doing to build a provincial Rural Health Strategy, which is focused on providing sustainable community and primary-care services that focus on the patients. The ministry is currently listening to health-care professionals, municipalities and health authorities, including the First Nations Health Authority, to finalize this strategy to ensure residents in rural, remote and Aboriginal communities receive the health services they require.
Health Minister Terry Lake -
“By bringing in three new nurse practitioners, we’re helping to address patient needs in Fort St. John and continue to address the need for primary care services in the community. High-quality primary care from doctors, nurse practitioners and other health professionals is the centrepiece of our health-care system. Primary-care services help people stay healthier, better manage their chronic conditions, and ultimately saves the health care system money.”
Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North -
“This is a good step forward for Fort St. John, and I know I echo others when I say residents will appreciate the positive effect more nurse practitioners will have on the community. Together, we are also supporting the drive to have more doctors come, which helps make Fort St. John an attractive place for families, and a great place to start a career in health.”
Cathy Ulrich, Northern Health chief executive officer -
“The community relies heavily on the health professionals that serve them. Three nurse practitioner positions will be a welcome addition to the primary-care team in Fort St John and we look forward to working with the Division of Family Practice, the BC Nurse Practitioners Association and the community to recruit to these new positions.”
Lori Ackerman, mayor, Fort St. John -
“I can’t say enough about how much this is needed, and how important it is to get back to a high level of primary care for our residents, provided by the very capable and skilled nurse practitioners. This is a great move for Fort St. John — let’s keep this team effort going.”
Stan Marchuk, president, British Columbia Nurse Practitioners Association -
“As primary-care providers, nurse practitioners are proud to support the health and well-being of all British Columbians. We look forward to working with the community of Fort St. John to deliver primary-care services that are so badly needed. This is a strong example of government’s commitment to further the integration of nurse practitioners into B.C.’s health-care system.”
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
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