By Andrea Arnold

Kim Nordli, Health Services Administrator with Northern Health made a presentation to council during the November 28th meeting reviewing some of the changes to the hospital and the local staffing situation.

She began by talking about the renovations that started at the McBride and District Hospital earlier this year. She said that the one million dollar renovation that the nurse’s work station has undergone since July is complete and the nurses have been able to move back into the space. She said that the new space includes an area for staff to work with medications.

Also recently renovated, the old IDA space inside the hospital is now a new clinic space that includes a specialized electric bed as well as a regular exam bed and a large work desk. 

A new dishwasher was purchased and installed in the kitchen. The labs in both McBride and Valemount received new analyzers.

Nordli also gave an staffing overview. Over the past 12 months, in the whole organization there were 2020 external hires, and 1401 internal. McBride saw 10 external hires and two internal. McBride also had 10 staff leave the organization and two leave the department they were working in. 

Nordli said that she had requested two seats in the health career access program for the August intake. The program is designed to increase the Health Care Assistant workforce in BC. It is an employer-sponsored training program that includes education, training and work experiences leading to a provincially recognized Health Care Assistant (HCA) credential. No one had applied for the seats, but she has requested two more seats for the January intake. She announced that there is one combined x-ray lab technician position and there was an applicant who has completed her practicum in McBride and intends to return to the community in September 2025 when she completes her schooling. She is a local individual who wants to serve the valley.

She said that there are several other positions that need to be filled and they are working with staffing to see that happens. 

The Northern Health Careers website list the following positions open for external hire in McBride specifically, registered nurse, combined laboratory/xray technologist, cook, health care support worker, laundry worker, two licensed practical nurse positions, medical laboratory technologist I, occupational therapist II, registered care aide, three registered nurse positions and a social worker II position. There are also 15 other positions that are listed as “flexible location” in the job postings.

In Valemount, three registered nurse positions, health care support worker, primary care assistant, social worker II, new graduate licensed practical nurse, as well as the positions listed as “flexible locations.” 

Nordli says they are also working to provide housing options for staff. She briefly touched on the partnership Northern Health has with the Village of Valemount that provides accommodation options through the recent co-purchase of a former BnB within the community.

Following the presentation, Mayor Runtz asked if the recent two week wait he experienced while waiting to see the doctor was what residents should expect. Nordli responded that in this case, the local doctor was away and that locums were not able to cover the whole time. But, she has heard similar concerns from others so she is looking into what can be done to shorten wait times.

Councillor Kolida asked if medical staff are still required to have two vaccines, and Nordli said that yes, that is a directive from the Ministry of Health.