According to Northern Health, approximately 350 people in Prince Rupert are without a family doctor, while less than two years ago it was estimated there were 4,500 people unattached to a physician.
And of that 350, said Northern Health Chief Operating Officer Marina Ellinson, some people choose to visit the hospital, rather than one of the City’s clinics to become attached to a doctor.
Ellinson made a presentation to City Council on Monday evening, updating council on health news in the northwest region.
While four physicians are leaving Prince Rupert, she told council, two new ones have arrived, two are in the process of arriving, and one recently had a tour of the community.
In addition, three of the departing physicians have kept locum privileges so they can come back and work for two to four weeks and up to a year.
“That’s a very positive thing,” Ellinson said of the locum requests, adding there is lots of interest in Prince Rupert.
“I don’t know whether you’re waving magic wands or sprinkling fairy dust around, but these physicians are calling and saying, what’s with Prince Rupert?” Ellinson told council.
Councillor Joy Thorkelson asked if the doctors that are leaving are from the new Primary Health Care Centre, located in the old Greene Clinic, and heard that three that have been working there are leaving the clinic.
Sheila Gordon-Payne, wearing her Northern Health Administrator hat, who was also part of the presentation, said two are a husband and wife couple that are relocating to another clinic in town to practice with colleagues they have developed a connection with, and Northern Health is now looking for two doctors for the centre. The third doctor is one of the ones retaining his locum privileges, but plans to leave the community.
Commenting on the hiring of a psychiatrist for Prince Rupert, as reported in The Northern View last week, Ellinson said he picked Prince Rupert over a number of communities.
He will be moving to the city along with his wife who is a school psychologist.
“He toured Prince Rupert, met with the mayor and some of the local physicians for a very positive tour. It’s been seven years that you have not had a psychiatrist so this is wonderful news,” Ellinson said.
Councillor Kathy Bedard asked if Northern Health intends to follow up with chronic concerns in the community around diabetes and other illnesses.
Ellinson responded the work with chronic disease is important and is being addressed in a number of different ways.
“We need to do a lot more work and get the infrastructure in place so we’re not just plunking a program out there and working separately from everything else,” she said.
It’s about working with local providers, pharmacies and grocery stores, to build a network, she suggested.
Gordon-Payne said the community integration committee that is already in place, is trying to work with community partners to reach community members in different ways.
“The easy place to deal with chronic disease and those illnesses is in the hospital. That would make my jobs easy, but if the most cost-effective way to deal with it has the least real benefit for our community members, then we have to do something different,” Gordon-Payne explained.
As an example, she described a new Nursing Outreach Counselling Service (NOC) program, administered through Northern Health, that is reaching people at the Salvation Army and Raffles Inn in Prince Rupert.
“Northern Health had an opportunity to go in and close something down or choose to go in and work with the cliental,” Gordon-Payne said.