More than a dozen new healthcare recruits are expected to arrive in Fort St. John this month, though there remains no firm reopening date of the intensive care unit at the hospital.
The ICU has been closed since June 2020 due to a staff shortage, with a reopening delayed until at least this fall.
Northern Health Chief Operating Officer Angela De Smit says a reopening date is dependent on staffing levels, noting July will see the addition of seven licensed practical nurses, four registered nurses, and three care aides. Another three RN interviews are pending for hire.
"We've got a number of shortages right now and no estimated time for reopening," said De Smit. "Forty-two schools of nursing were approached back in March and then again in late June with further success and interests from students."
The health authority is facing a significant challenge when it comes to recruitment in the northeast — 150 nursing positions are currently posted on Northern Health's website. Of those, 70 positions are posted in Fort St. John, including seven for ICU nurses.
It's expected the recruits this month will fill all the vacant lines, with only two remaining empty, De Smit said. She noted that 12 RNs, 10 LPNs, and five care aides had been hired as of September 2020.
The emergency room remains open and patients are assessed by ER physicians and nursing staff to determine if they require transfer to a higher level of care at another hospital. Patients are typically flown to Prince George or Vancouver in that case.
Elsewhere, two new family doctors are coming to the North Peace Primary Care Clinic this summer – Dr. Stephen Akinkunmi arrived in June and another arrives in September.
De Smit recommends using the family doctors provided by Northern Health instead of virtual appointments now available through various health apps. Doctors can handle 1,000 to 1,500 patients at full-time capacity.
"The continuity of care is maintained a much higher level than you would find virtually," De Smit said.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News