February will see one doctor come to Houston, one fewer than hoped, should he pass the final stage of tests.
Dr. Onoura Odoh has reached the final stage of a year-old provincial program called Practice Ready Assessment (PRA). It fast-tracks internationally qualified doctors to practise medicine in British Columbia in exchange for a commitment to serve in rural B.C.
“His starting should be some time in February,” said Northern Health’s Northwest medical director Dr. Jeffrey Appleton.
Dr. Onoura Odoh started going through a 12-week assessment practicum on Oct. 26. He needs to pass this before getting his licence to practise medicine here.
“He has passed his exams, and he is now in a 12-week assessment process under the supervision of a physician in Smithers, actually,” Dr. Appleton said. “If successful in that process, and he gets a good report, then the College will issue him a licence.”
A second doctor slated for Houston will not be coming.
“We did have another candidate, that we have proposed to go to Houston, but unfortunately, he failed the examination part of that PRA process,” said Dr. Appleton. “And so could not go through to the assessment phase.”
Northern Health will continue to pursue for more doctors come the next round of intake in the PRA program.
“We’re now starting again with advertising. There are some new applicants for the next PRA process in the spring, and some of them may be earmarked for Houston,” Dr. Appleton said. “Unfortunately, that puts us back, unfortunately, a few months.”
They will also pursue other avenues.
“Not only that, but there are other options for example there’s a program out of St. Paul’s Hospital for international medical graduates, so Houston could qualify for somebody from there to go to Houston, if they desire,” Dr. Appleton said. “And we also still have advertisements going in what we call Health Match BC for a physician that’s open in Houston.”
Recently, Mayor Shane Brienen mentioned that he would like to see the health centre have four to six doctors, but Northern Health pointed out a few constraints.
“We definitely need two in that clinic,” Dr. Appleton said. “If there were more doctors, where would they practise? The clinic, I think, from what I’ve heard, I don’t think you could take more than three at one time.”
Health service administrator Cormac Hikisch agreed.
“It would be ideal for two physicians operating at the same time. We would have to stagger hours if we start adding professionals or looking at other spaces,” Hikisch added.