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An apple a day will keep the doctor away – but what will attract one?

Northern Health is still searching for a replacement for Dr. Mike Jackson who is taking a leave until August of next year.

“Northern Health has been actively recruiting,” says Adrea Rusnak. health services co-ordinator for the Robson Valley. “In the interim, we’ve been putting in locums.”

It means McBride residents may be seeing lots of different faces if they make a trip to the doctor. Dr. Joseph Owega and Dr. G Cowburn are still practising in McBride. A locum – Dr. Eric Cunningham – has been filling in for the past month.

Rusnak says if they can’t find somebody to take over the rest of the 1-year term, they may have to rely on locums, substitutes who fill in for doctors who take temporary leaves.

B.C. also has the Rural Specialist Locum Program which helps rural specialists to secure subsidized periods of leave from their practices for purposes such as continuing medical education and vacation.

Rural communities are ranked in terms of availability of services nearby. McBride, Valemount and Blue River are all ranked in the ‘A’ category, meaning they quality for the longest period of coverage at the highest rate of pay.

Through the program, physicians in A communities are eligible for 43 days of leave per year. The guaranteed pay to a locum replacing them is $900 a day, $1200 if they are a specialist.

This case is a fully covered 1-year leave meaning locums could cover any amount of time between now and his return. Northern Health is responsible for finding a replacement. Rusnak says they will maintain the same level of service.

The three doctors in Valemount may also cover on certain days of the week.

“The physician groups in Valemount and McBride really work closely together,” she says. “They help spell each other off.”