Editorial: Getting the message right

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By: Korie Marshall, Editor

Once again I see evidence of the great services we have available in the valley, and a community that doesn’t know how to best access them – this time with our hospital and clinic.

Finding the right people to fill positions in rural and remote areas like ours can be challenging, and it’s not like you can hire someone already living here and train them to be a doctor in a few months. It’s a long term solution, and I’m glad that Northern Health is taking the time to try to attract the right people to fill vacant physician positions here in the Robson Valley. But I don’t think they’ve been doing a very good job of letting the community know how the shortage affects health services.

I commend Northern Health for putting posters on their doors and for communicating with patients they see. People who are frequently at the clinic or hospital may know what is going on, and know what it means when there is a shortage of regular doctors. But that message is not reaching everyone. I often see people posting on local social media, asking if the clinic is open, and if you have to call an ambulance to get help. With no doctor at the McBride Hospital, residents are also wondering what care they will receive and how to access it.

These are important questions. So where are the answers?

Northern Health has a lot of programs to help our communities be and stay healthy. I think the Connections Bus system is a really great example of how they are thinking outside of the box to help make sure we have access to health services we need. Valemount’s Walk around the World and McBride’s Healthtacular are also really incredible, and they are important ways to help keep us healthy.

But Northern Health needs to do a better job of letting residents in our region know what is going on. They put out lots of news releases, which is great for certain things. As a media outlet, we can make use of them if we feel the information is newsworthy and isn’t an ad. But if Northern Health wants the community to get a repeated, specific message, like what it means when the valley is short on doctors – they should be advertising. Regularly communicating with the broad public about how to access the medical system will help encourage people to seek help when they need it. Northern Health relying on local media to do that work for them is simply not acceptable.

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