Houston will see two doctors come to town by February if all goes well.
Northern Health’s local health service administrator Cormac Hikisch revealed that Houston was earmarked to get a second family physician because of the “urgent need for a primary care practice.”
“If successful, we could have two international medical graduate physicians on the ground in February 2016 if all goes according to our plan,” said Hikisch.
The doctors were drawn from the province’s Practice Ready Assessment program which fast tracks the certification process for international doctors. They go through a series of examinations and a practicum.
When successfully licensed as a doctor, they are bonded to serve a small community for three years.
Hikisch does not foresee any issues unless the doctors fail the program.
“The major hurdle will be if one or both of them don’t get through the competency exam. That’s the big hiccup,” said Hikisch. “I’m optimistic because this is the second round of Practice Ready Assessment process. The first round there were 15 physicians, all 15 passed.”
“So that’s indicated to me that the screening process for these international graduates is good at the outset.”
While the second doctor’s details are not clear yet, Hikisch said that the first doctor came to visit Houston with his family in early September.
“We had a Dr. Odoh and his family come through Houston just two weeks ago, and was welcomed by leaders in Houston and other members of the community,” said Hikisch during the interview. “Spent a wonderful weekend here; I understand he had dinner at someone’s home and I think he was at one of the festivals.”
“I met with him the following day on Monday and he was very positive and excited to be given the opportunity to see Houston and is hoping to move here.”
Dr. Onoura Odoh is from Nigeria and has a few more examinations to go through.
“He will be in Vancouver in early October completing a week-long certification exam process and then once successful, he’ll then do a 16-week practicum performance assessment in Smithers,” said Hikisch.
Hikisch predicts great improvement in Houston’s health care with two permanent doctors here which can get to know their patients and treat a range of illnesses locally, a crucial part of “longitudinal primary care”.
“It’ll be huge. Right now we don’t have longitudinal primary care in Houston, so it will be an enormous improvement,” said Hikisch. “We’re hopeful that two physicians is the right number of physicians to support family practice in Houston.”
“But certainly, that will be monitored closely with the community and with medical staff throughout the Bulkley Valley, and if we need to invest further, then that becomes a priority.”