Healthy Living in the North

Our People: Sunayana Mann, Medical Office Assistant, PG UPCC

A smiling woman sits at a desk behind two computer screens.

Sunayana Mann, Medical Office Assistant.

Sunayana Mann, Medical Office Assistant, might be the smiling face who greets you at the Prince George Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) in Parkwood Mall.

The PG UPCC provides after-hours care to:

  • People with an illness or injury that needs to be looked at within 12 to 24 hours, but isn’t an emergency.
  • People that have a hard time getting an appointment at their family doctor’s or nurse practitioner’s office in a timely manner.
  • People who don’t have a regular family doctor or nurse practitioner.
Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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After hours non-emergency care at the PG Urgent and Primary Care Centre

A man with a cane sits on a chair in the waiting room.

David Scott, 83, patient at the Prince George Urgent and Primary Care Centre.

“I think our health service is just incredible,” said David Scott, 83, who got some advice on dizzy spells at the Prince George Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) on a recent Saturday afternoon. “Many of us don’t realize how fortunate we are.”

The UPCC is the place to go for after-hours non-emergency care. 

Visit the PG UPCC if you or a family member are experiencing:

  • Sprains caused by minor accidents and falls
  • Minor bleeding/cuts requiring stitches
  • Mild breathing difficulties
  • Minor burns
  • Respiratory infections
  • Ear aches
  • Eye irritation/injuries
  • Severe sore throat or cough
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
  • Mild back pain
  • Skin rashes and infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • New or worsening pain
  • Asthma

You should always try to contact your family doctor or nurse practitioner first to see if you can get an appointment.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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UHNBC doing 33% more MRIs

An MRI machine in a dark room.

UHNBC acquired this MRI machine in 2017.

The University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George has done 1,360 more magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) so far this fiscal year, a 33.2% increase over last year.

MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields to make images of the brain, heart, liver, arteries, and more, helping doctors diagnose and treat disease.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Northern Health emergency guides spark national interest

The cover of the Relocation Guide is pictured.

The Relocation Guide, for use if your community is under evacuation alert, and NH wants to relocate patients or residents proactively.

Two unique Northern Health handbooks developed in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires are inspiring other health organizations in BC and across Canada.

One guides hospitals and other health care facilities on how to safely relocate their patients during an emergency (for example, moving them to another community).

The other gives tips on how to receive patients being transferred from elsewhere – like when 254 hospital patients and care home residents from the Cariboo were evacuated to Prince George and Quesnel in 2017.

“Together, the two guides can help an organization cope in the face of emergency,” says Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator, Northern Health Emergency Management, who led the guides’ development. “Having clear guidelines in a crisis should result in better care for the patients involved.”

Other health authorities in BC have expressed interest in making their own versions of the Northern Health guidebooks, and there’s also been interest from Nova Scotia and the Yukon.

The cover of the Receiving Guide is pictured.

The Receiving Guide, for facilities and communities hosting evacuated patient/residents from another community.

“The concept of a quick-access document that an emergency operations centre can refer to during a crisis is unique and has been championed by Jana,” says Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Northern Health Emergency Management. “Other organizations are requesting the information to see what we’ve done and how they could adapt it to their operations.”

The team at Northern Health likes to think of the two guides as “evergreen pathfinder” documents – in other words, they’re constantly evolving.

“It’s important to always be on the lookout to improve them,” says Jim. “There may be similar documents out there, but we haven’t found them yet. If we do, we’ll definitely review them with the intent to learn and adopt as appropriate.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Vaping: Not as harmless as you might think

A drawing of a youth vaping, with smoke around his head, says, "Vaping exposes you to harmful chemicals."

In 2018, 21% of all BC students reported that they vaped with nicotine.

This article is based on a presentation by Northern Health’s staff members: Lindsay Willoner, Regional Nursing Lead, Tobacco Reduction; Petrina Bryant, Regional Nursing Lead Healthy Schools and Youth; and Stacie Weich, Team Lead – Interprofessional Team 7. It originally appeared in Northern Health – Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

It’s true that with vaping, you’re not breathing in tar and other components of smoke the way you would with a cigarette, but research shows it’s still risky for your health: you’re inhaling particulate matter, nicotine, heavy metals such as lead, and other cancer-causing toxic chemicals.

“There’s metals found in vaping that are being inhaled into people’s lungs, and there’s nicotine, which puts people at risk of addiction,” says Lindsay Willoner, Northern Health’s Regional Nursing Lead, Tobacco Reduction. “Vaping has only been on the market in Canada for about a decade, so we don’t know the long-term effects on public health.”

What is vaping?

Lighting a traditional cigarette makes tobacco burn, releasing smoke that contains nicotine. The smoker breathes it in, delivering nicotine to their lungs.

With vaping, there’s no burning. Instead, the vaping device heats a liquid and converts it to a vapor that the user inhales. This vapour is often flavoured and can contain nicotine.

“Because it looks like it’s smokeless and might not give off any odour, people may think there’s really no harm with it,” says Willoner. “But really, the e-juice or vape may have addictive substances in it, so it doesn’t come without harm.”

Vaping can harm your health

Short-term effects of vaping include coughing, sneezing, increased heart rate, and worsening of asthma symptoms.

Long-term effects can include lung disease, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Also, children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing the e-juice or absorbing it through their skin.

There’s also “popcorn lung,” caused by the buttery flavouring found in some vaping products — it can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease.

Vaping is illegal for those under 19

With vaping on the rise among youth, there’s the risk of a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine. Cannabis can also be vaped with an undetectable smell.

Tobacco smoking rates continue to drop, with 6% of students reporting they were daily smokers in 2018 vs. 10% in 2008.

But in 2018, 21% of all BC students reported vaping with nicotine, and 19% without nicotine. However, as of 2018, vaping is illegal for those under the age of 19.

How to quit

The best thing you can do for your health is to quit vaping. For help, visit quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233:

  • Get information and free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.
  • You can get these products through your pharmacy.

You might be able to get financial help to buy smoking cessation medications.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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NH staff member defends PhD thesis on First Nations identity, wins award

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat, and holding her degree.

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat.

In December 2018, we featured a story on Prince George resident and Northern Health staff member Jessie King presenting her Ph.D. thesis at an international conference in Ontario. Jessie has now successfully defended that thesis, gaining her doctorate in Health Sciences from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

“When my supervisor told me my thesis defense was successful, I just started crying and shaking because it’s been eight years,” says Jessie. “It was such a personal process.”

Jessie was also awarded the Pounamu Taonga Award, which recognizes an Aboriginal student who is graduating from UNBC for their academic achievements, university service, and community involvement.

Jessie, who works in Northern Health’s Indigenous Health department as the Lead, Research and Community Engagement, titled her thesis “Niit nüüyu gwa’a: Decolonizing and Deconstructing First Nations Identity.”

The first part of the title is Sm’algyax (a dialect of the Tsimsham language) for “This is who I am.” She chose this title to acknowledge the intensive 10-year exploration of her identity and to honour her maternal ties to Gitxaala and the Tsimshian Nation.

Some of the questions that her thesis examined include:

  • Does how you disclose your identity change based on different situations and your perceived level of safety?
  • What are the implications of status on your identity?

“I had such a fantastic supervisory committee,” says Jessie, who hopes to publish her dissertation.

Her next adventure will include post-doctoral activities and teaching a course on research methods and design for the First Nations Studies department of UNBC.

“It will be nice to get my foot back in the teaching door,” she says.

For now, she’s enjoying plenty of well-deserved quality time with her family.

Congratulations to Jessie on her many achievements!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Available now: Summer edition of NH’s public magazine

Check out the latest issue of NH’s public magazine, now available online in flipbook form: Northern Health: Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

Featuring articles on dementia care, telehealth, the Healthy Terrace program, a new Gitxsan phrasebook in Hazelton, vaping, the NH Connections bus, and more, the magazine will also be distributed soon in print — watch for it in a health care facility near you!

The cover of the summer 2019 edition of Northern Health: Health and Wellness in the North is pictured. The cover features two young boys on the edge of a lake, looking out.

Read the latest issue of NH’s public magazine!

Your feedback and suggestions on the magazine are welcome – email communications@northernhealth.ca.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Telehealth shrinks the distance between you and your health care provider

Gord looking at a laptop with his health care specialist on the screen.

With telehealth, a health care appointment is a few key strokes away – like this appointment between Gord in Prince George and his speech language pathologist in Vancouver.

Have you ever driven to Vancouver for a doctor’s appointment that only took 10 minutes?

Apart from the time spent on the road, you probably had to miss work or other activities, and arrange care for loved ones — all while dealing with the stress and cost of travelling.

But things are changing.

It’s now possible for Northerners to visit distant health care providers from their local doctor’s office or health care centre — or even from their own homes.

Telehealth, a service that lets patients connect with health care providers over live video, is available in many Northern BC communities.

Gord Simmons, a client from Prince George, likes the telehealth option. His speech-language pathologist, Lisa, is in Vancouver, but he can now do appointments with her from his own living room.

“It’s very much a positive experience to do it from home,” he says. “It’s really convenient.”

His wife, Karen, also likes the program. “It’s a more relaxed environment just being at home,” she says. “It’s helpful for me to listen in, too, because I know what to do in ‘homework’ with him.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Getting ready for fire season

The NH Emergency Management team posing.

The NH Emergency Management team. L – R: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director; and Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator.

Northern Health’s Emergency Management team is working hard to make sure the North is prepared for possible future fire seasons.

Using “lessons learned” from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, they’ve created evacuation guides for hospitals, care homes, and other Northern Health facilities, and they’re reviewing and updating emergency response plans as well.

They’re also working with the City of Prince George on a mock evacuation exercise for May 2019 — this will be an annual event.

As well, they’re collaborating with the provincial emergency group and Interior Health on “mutual aid” arrangements to use each other’s emergency preparedness staff if needed.

Finally, Northern Health is taking part in “spring readiness” forums for emergency decision makers throughout the North, with the aim of ensuring everyone’s safety in an emergency.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Northern Health staff and physicians volunteer at the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships

Laura Elsenheimer offering a tissue to Birgit Skarstein.
Laura Elsenheimer, Chief Technologist at the UHNBC Laboratory, offers a tissue to Birgit Skarstein, who had just finished the middle distance cross-country sit ski race. Skarstein, known as “the smile of Norway” won bronze. The athlete has been paralyzed from the waist down since 2009 as the result of a swimming accident in Malaysia.

World-class athletes are being showcased as Prince George hosts the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships (WPNSC) February 15 – 24 at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, and Northern Health (NH) staff and physicians are helping make it happen. 

Many NH staff and physicians are volunteering at the event, donating their time at the Medical and Anti-Doping site, Timing, the Volunteer Centre, Security, the Start/Finish areas, out on the course, and more. As well, Dr. Jacqui Pettersen, a neurologist with the Northern Medical Program, is the Lead for Medical Services.

The event, attended by athletes from 17 countries, is the second biggest for para Nordic sports after the Paralympics. Spectators are welcome – there’s no charge to watch these amazing world-class athletes in action.

Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, was invited to get involved by the local organizing committee. 

Cheryl Moors helping prep the finish area at the para nordic skiing championships.
Early morning volunteer: Cheryl Moors, RN, Interim CPL on Surgery North at UHNBC, helps prep the finish area on Day 1 of racing.

“I was honoured to be asked. If I’d known better, I would have run screaming the other way!” says Elisabeth, a casual in Recreation Therapy at Northern Health. “It’s a large and time-consuming job, but one that I know will bring me, and I hope others, great satisfaction, when all is said and done.”

Other volunteers concurred. Lory Denluck, an accountant in Northern Health’s Physician Compensation department, enjoyed the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help at such an exciting event being held in my community.”

Elisabeth Veeken standing with Collin Cameron.
Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, with Collin Cameron, gold medallist for Canada for the men’s sit ski sprints.

Dawn Taylor, a cook at Northern Health’s Rainbow Lodge, wanted to volunteer because she’s a lifelong cross-country skier. “Plus, I’ve also volunteered for Special Olympics and the Caledonia Club for many years,” she says.

And nursing student Melanie Martinson says it gave her “an amazing chance to watch world-class athletes competing in our own home town. It’s so rare to have such a high calibre of athletics in Prince George that it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up!”

As for Elisabeth, she’s a big supporter of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club. Volunteering at the WPNSC was a perfect way for her to give back to the club.

“I’m so excited to be part of this amazing event!” she says. 

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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