Prince Rupert and area residents can avoid lengthy waits at the ER for non-urgent issues by using the new virtual care clinic online or on the phone, Northern Health Authority reminded patients, on Dec. 9. (Black Press Media file photo)

Houston council presses for health care improvements

Says pandemic has exposed gaps in northern medical services

More needs to be done to provide medical services within the north and rural areas, the District of Houston council says in a move to grab the attention of the provincial government.

It comes via a resolution the council is taking to this year’s annual general meeting of the North Central Local Government Association this spring and builds off of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic “exposed the lack of health care resources in rural British Columbia and resulted in many individuals being forced to leave their community for further evaluation and treatment,” reads one part of the resolution adopted at council’s March 1 meeting.

It calls for “accessible, reliable and effective local medical services” to be available during “significant illness events that impact the majority of residents.”

In addition to a resolution for northern local governments, council here is asking the provincial association of local governments, the Union of BC Municipalities, to also take up the matter with the provincial government.

This is not the only health care-related campaign the District is tackling — it is also supporting a move coming from local governments in northeastern B.C. to have the province undertake an audit of what Northern Health does, how it operates, what problems there are and how they can be fixed.

The request from five northeastern B.C. local governments zeroes on a number of fronts, including recruitment and retention which has been traditionally a challenge in filling vacant health care positions in the north.

One of the audit’s goals is determination of “cumulative impacts of deficiencies and gaps of administrative leadership on health care professionals, staff, workplace amenities, and organizational policies, and subsequent influence on recruitment and retention.”

And then to “develop sustainable solutions and tools to address gaps and deficiencies with a timeframe for execution of these solutions.”

The audit request, contained in a letter to provincial health care minister Adrian Dix, does acknowledge that Premier John Horgan has been pressing the federal government for more money for health care.

And the northeastern local governments view its audit request as “further supporting and assisting our health care professionals in building a strong effective, accessible and sustainable health care system with northern B.C.”

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