By Andrea Arnold
Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) under Northern Health are being required to prioritize their jobs due to a shortage of qualified individuals available. Normally, EHOs assess public health risks, address health hazards in the community, permitting and inspecting a wide range of facilities such as drinking water systems, food establishments and other regulated facilities. At this time they are having to focus on the areas that have the highest potential risk to public health.
Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Jong Kim says this is not an isolated issue.
“While other health regions are experiencing similar staffing challenges, Northern BC is particularly impacted and currently has approximately one third of the full complement of EHOs it requires.”
Adverse water quality result assessments, drinking water system advisories and notices are areas that fall under the highest priority for the Northern Health Environmental Public Health team. This is an area of concern that could directly impact the people of McBride.
Village CAO Chris Tupy commented that recently McBride was without an EHO for approximately a month.
“We had to send out water testing information and questions to a generic Northern Health staff mailbox,” said Tupy. “However, they were able to recruit a new EHO and we have a direct [point of contact] once again. Even during the time we were redirected to the generic staff box, I believe someone always got back in a timely manner.”
As water-born illness is listed as one of the highest priority scenarios CAO Tupy thinks that McBride will continue to be well served on items related to the local water system.
Northern Health has kicked up their recruitment efforts in hopes to draw EHOs into the region by offering incentives, working in partnership with post-secondary institutions to develop affiliation agreements and increase intake of student EHOs, and developing targeted recruitment campaigns that showcase the opportunities available in Northern BC.
Northern Health asks that people still take the time to call in or e-mail with any concerns and questions about matters of public health.By phone or email: 250-565-7322 or [email protected]