Northern Health is recruiting to hire international doctors, but getting one for Houston will take at least a year.
Doctor Geoff Appleton, Northwest Medical Director for Northern Health, says Houston is not on the list for the first 15 incoming international doctors.
“Houston was not designated as one of those sites initially, because at the time when we did that, we weren’t aware of doctors leaving Houston,” said Dr. Appleton.
But Houston “certainly will be on for the next time around,” he said.
Licensed doctors from United States, Britain, Northern Ireland, or Australia can work in B.C., but those from anywhere else have to go through practice readiness assessment.
These international doctors apply to work in B.C. and take an exam to test their medical knowledge.
Then they go through a 12-week assessment process with a doctor trained to assess their abilities.
If they are qualified, they work in a designated community in B.C. for three years.
The first 15 doctors will start this process within the month and a second group will start this fall.
A doctor cannot be assessed in a community where they might stay and practice, said Dr. Appleton.
He says there are a lot of international applicants, and resources limit the amount coming in and being assessed.
Last weekend a group of B.C. doctors, including 11 from Northern Health, trained in Vancouver as assessors.
Northern Health continues to recruit doctors in other ways.
Dr. Appleton says Houston is designated an area of highest need for doctors, and has been since Ninth Street Medical announced an August 1, 2015 closure.
Houston is not the only community desperate for doctors.
Dr. Appleton says there is a real shortage in doctors across B.C. and Burns Lake, Hazelton, Terrace, Fort St. John and Quesnel are also highest need.
Northern Health gives incentives for doctors to come to areas in high need, and Dr. Appleton says they are much the same community to community.
Some Communities have offered additional incentives such as provided or temporary housing or salary positions.