Houston 24/7 health care not an option

A Northern Health review of Houston services deemed 24/7 care "not feasible" based on health provider input and comparison to similar towns.

Northern Health deemed 24/7 health care in Houston not feasible.

The decision came out of the Houston Health Services Review released by Northern Health February 6.

The review was done by three health professionals, and centred on 53 interviews with Houston physicians, staff and stakeholders last September.

Stakeholders include Houston council, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, Link to Learning, Community Services, Houston Hospice, RCMP and Ambulance services, said Cormac Hikisch, Health Service Administrator with Northern Health.

The review states that physicians, nurses, and other health care service providers were unanimous in agreeing that 24/7 care is not an option for Houston.

It looked at doctor resources, numbers of patients, and distance to higher levels of care and compared Houston to similar communities.

Houston already has limited access to doctors, and the review says there is concern that expanding hours at the Health Centre would make it more difficult to recruit doctors and medical staff.

Looking at patient data from 2011 to 2014, the review states that on average, two patients per week are transferred to the Smithers Hospital which is 64 kilometres away.

Less than one patient a week is transferred after the Houston Health Centre is closed.

“The transfer rate is low and the type of transfers to the next level of care is appropriate,” the report says.

Comparing Houston to similar communities, the review found that “the level of services available in Houston is similar to comparative communities.”

In Fraser Lake, 2,738 people are served by a Health Centre open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, with no after-hours service.

After-hours calls for Ambulance go straight to Vanderhoof which is 58 kilometres away.

Valemount has 1,100 people served by the Diagnostic and Treatment Centre with an urgent care unit.

The centre is open 365 days a year: Monday to Friday they’re open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on weekends 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

After-hours or on statutory holidays, Ambulance takes the calls, summoning an on-call nurse or doctor if needed.

Patients needing higher-levels of care are transferred to the McBride Hospital 84 kilometres away.

Mackenzie has 4,090 people served by the Mackenzie Hospital open 24/7.

The Hospital has a Health Centre open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and an Emergency Room which takes more serious issues and after-hour care.

Patients needing higher-levels of care go to the UNBC Hospital in Prince George 190 kilometres away (over two hours drive).

“In sum, the population and the distance to the next level of care define the level of care and corresponding facility type for a community,” the Houston Health Review says.

“The type of after-hours care is also determined by the population and the distance to the next level of care as well as by the presence or absence of a physician after hours call arrangement.”

“The level of services available in Houston is similar to comparative communities.”