A new $10 million province wide funding program is set to benefit rural communities and improve patient access to rural emergency services, and Burns Lake physicians are eligible to apply.
The Ministry of Health is offering funding of up to $200,000 per year to groups of rural, fee for service physicians who commit to work as a team to ensure reliable public access to emergency services at their rural community hospital.
According to Dr. David Butcher, Northern Health’s vice president of medicine, Burns Lake physicians will work alongside Northern Health to develop a community specific plan for how funding might best be applied.
The funding can be used for hiring additional physicians either full time or part time, engaging additional, temporary, locum support, providing incentives for weekend, holiday or night shift coverage, hiring additional health care service providers such as nurse practitioners and nurses or purchasing equipment.
This program was created by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural issues (JSC), a joint committee of the province and the B.C. Medical Association (BCMA) which was established to enhance the delivery of rural health care across B.C.
Local physicians will be required to apply for the funding, with applications being accepted immediately by the JSC.
According to the ministry the funding will then be distributed to the successful applicants through the regional health authority.
The funding is part of a series of targeted investments, totalling $180 million, to enhance patient care as outlined in the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement between the province and the BCMA.
Approximately half of this funding is directed toward improving access to services for patients, while the remainder focuses on targeted labour market adjustments to improve recruitment and retention.
Dr. Butcher said that as the announcement just came out last week the physicians and Northern Health have not yet had a chance to discuss the funding.
“We have had a preliminary discussion with the Burns Lake physicians about it,” he said.
Dr. Butcher said he feels the funding creates a good opportunity for the physicians to work with the medical director and come up with a plan that they see sustainable for the Lakes District Hospital.
Dr. Hill, Burns Lake’s chief of staff said that local physicians will definitely be applying for the funding.
“We are planning to take advantage of this, but exactly how we are not quite sure yet,” he said.
He went on to say that it is his understanding that the funding can only be used to supplement the Lakes District Hospital rather than the Burns Lake Medical Clinic.
“It is just related to on call for the hospital,” he said.
“The funding is also back dated to July 1, 2011 …. if there is money there, be assured we will go for it.”