By: Korie Marshall

Northern and rural areas often face a critical shortage of doctors and health care professional, but with a hospital in McBride and a well-staffed clinic in Valemount, the Robson Valley may have seemed insulated from that reality – until now.

In late November Northern Health announced unforeseen circumstances have led to the physician in McBride needing to take personal leave. Northern Health says it is working on securing locum coverage, but in the meantime, doctors in Valemount will be providing direction to the McBride health team in emergency cases.

Northern Health said the emergency department would continue to operate 24/7, but under the same conditions as it normally does on evenings and weekends. Emergency rooms tend to patients who have experienced a sudden and/or unusual change in their health, including (but not limited to) breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or pain, broken bones, chest pain and eye injuries.

People who require emergency attention can call 9-1-1 for transport to the emergency department in McBride, Valemount or Prince George, or can seek private transportation, says a news release. Once discharged, patients will be required to find their own transport back to their home community.

Keltie Carmichael, Health Services Administrator for the Robson Valley, told the Goat the plan for the hospital is to always have two physicians. However Dr. Jackson had been working primarily by himself since August when the second doctor left. Carmichael said on Friday Dec. 5th that they’ve been actively recruiting for that second position.

“As of today we did manage to get a locum for the next 10 days, so we are covered until January when Dr. Jackson is due to come back,” said Carmichael. Dr. Markham was at the hospital on Friday, and a locum has been secured from Dec. 7th to the 17th. The remaining days until Dr. Jackson’s return will be covered by a physician from Valemount.

Northern Health says it is promoting the physician opportunities – a full-time physician and locum coverage – through a number of channels, including working collaboratively with the community. They are also advertising the positions and promoting them at various events attended by the physician recruitment team, and they are posted on the physician recruitment website The website was developed as a unique site to help promote living and working in northern BC.