Grand Forks’ Boundary Hospital is one of 36 rural communities to receive financial assistance of up to $200,000 from the Ministry of Health.
In July 2011, the province announced that $10 million would be available for rural communities across British Columbia.
Communities can receive up to $200,000 a year for rural, fee-for-service physicians who will ensure reliable public access to emergency services.
According to a press release, “The funding can be used to hire additional physicians, incentives for working on weekends, holidays or night shifts and health authority-approved equipment purchases.”
David Hurford, director of media relations and member services for BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA), told The Gazette, “The funding will definitely help. Certainly the funding will help seniors get assistance more quickly.”
BCCPA focuses on senior and health care in rural communities.
“(The funding) recognizes that rural communities have some particular challenges with regards to health care,” Hurford said.
“A lot of people talk about two-tier health care as private-pay versus public, but I think the real two-tier health care is rural versus urban.
“There are a lot of inequities in rural communities and I think the federal funding will be a step in the right direction to help close the gap.”
Physicians and the regional health authority will develop community-specific plans once funding is received.
Dr. Robert Sebastian, a general practitioner at Boundary Hospital, who helped with Grand Forks’ proposal, stated, “(The funding) is mainly focused on the recruitment and retention of new doctors.”
The funds are also aimed at maintaining medical emergency services and to keep it open 24/7, Sebastian pointed out.
“We’re looking for full-service general practitioners, in other words, doctors that will do everything, including office and special skills and work the emergency ward,” he explained. “We’re hoping it will attract new and younger physicians and to keep our manpower at sustainable hours.”
According to Sebastian, the funding started because, though it hasn’t been an issue in Grand Forks, there have been emergency departments that have been closed or the hours were curtailed.
“Princeton, Creston, Clearwater and Nakusp are four communities that come to mind right away; they’re just not able to fully staff the emergency department,” Sebastian said.
“Funding is always an issue in small towns.”
There are 52 communities that are eligible to apply.
Trail’s Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and Oliver/Osoyoos’ South Okanagan General Hospital are two other communities that have received funding.