A Burns Lake resolution asking the province to provide additional funding to hire more nurse practitioners in rural communities was recently endorsed by the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) membership.
According to Burns Lake council, hiring additional nurse practitioners would help alleviate the shortage of doctors in northern communities such as Burns Lake. With the recent addition of two new physicians, the current number of doctors in Burns Lake is seven.
“Nurse practitioners provide an excellent means of supporting doctors in meeting the needs of those seeking medical care and allowing physicians to focus on more complex and challenging patient heath complaints,” states the resolution.
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach said the NCLGA endorsement “shows the province that this is an important issue and that nurse practitioners are supported by other local governments.”
“It could increase the level of primary health care in Burns Lake and the north,” he added.
Burns Lake currently has two full-time nurse practitioners who travel to multiple communities to help provide care. Although hiring additional nurse practitioners could help improve healthcare services in Burns Lake, Beach says that is only part of the solution.
“Let’s be clear that nurse practitioners will never fully replace doctors, but they can greatly help in meeting the primary care needs of our residents,” Beach said earlier this year.
According to Northern Health, nurse practitioners do not address doctor shortages, but they can “augment and enhance” primary care services in rural communities.
“In the whole of Northern Health, there are 28 nurse practitioners, and there are vacancies open that are being addressed on an ongoing basis through recruitment efforts,” said Andrea Palmer, a spokesperson for Northern Health.
Burns Lake won the ‘best crafted resolution’ award from NCLGA for the nurse practioners resolution.
In response to the resolution, the province has expressed intent to review incentive programs for non-physicians healthcare professionals such as nurse practitioners in order to better support rural recruitment and retention.
The resolution will now be forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and then conveyed to senior levels of government.
The UBCM membership has consistently endorsed resolutions supporting improved physician recruitment and retention, and the need for more healthcare professionals in rural areas. In 2015, UBCM endorsed a resolution asking the provincial government to fund overhead and operating costs for nurse practitioners throughout the province.