Healthy Living in the North

Celebrating our Northern physicians

Physician residents in a simulated OR setting.

A group of residents participating in an OR simulation in Fort St. John.

Happy National Physician’s Day!

Join us on this day to recognize all the physicians who have contributed to the health of our Northern communities. We appreciate your commitment and dedication to your patients and the health of our families.

Please join us in thanking the physicians who work in the North!

A group of physicians sitting around a table.

A physician learning group sessions being hosted by Dr. Rob Olson, BC Cancer Centre for the North.

A group of people listening to a presentation.

Dr. Collin Phillips presenting at the 2019 Jasper Retreat and Medical Conference.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Prince Rupert radiologist Dr. Giles Stevenson presented with prestigious award

Headshot of Dr. Giles Stevenson.The Canadian Association of Radiology has presented Prince Rupert radiologist Dr. Giles Stevenson with the Distinguished Career Award, an award that honours individuals who have made significant contributions to radiology in Canada over the course of their careers.

Dr. Stevenson’s many accomplishments over his 42 year career in health care have been featured in an article by Canadian Healthcare Technology. His achievements include teaching medical students since 1976, authoring more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and 42 book chapters, winning multiple awards, and gaining international renown in his specialty.

Dr. Stevenson started in the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in 2007 and recently retired in December 2018. He says that the hospital in Prince Rupert was a “wonderfully friendly hospital to work in, with terrific staff and a warm and supportive atmosphere. It always felt like a privilege to be part of it.”

Please join Northern Health in congratulating Dr. Stevenson on his service to our Northern communities!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Peritoneal dialysis and home hemodialysis are helping people with kidney disease have more freedom in their lives

A home hemodialysis educator shows a patient one of the machines.

Dialysis patient Jerry Beck and Home Hemodialysis Educator Susan Rawlings. The dialysis machine pictured is one of the two types of home hemodialysis machines available to patients.

For many, dialysis can feel like a loss of independence because of the ongoing need for hospital appointments and time spent away from home. The availability of peritoneal dialysis (PD) and home hemodialysis allows many people to be involved in their daily treatments and bring back a sense of freedom to their self-management and care.

“I truly believe in the benefits of people being able to do this at home. At first it can sound complicated, but when people start training even after the first day, their anxiety goes down and they feel very proud of themselves,” says Karen Walkey, Patient Care Coordinator, UHNBC Peritoneal Dialysis. “It’s very doable and very learnable, and I am very proud of our patients who are willing to take this on and do such a good job with it and continue living their lives.”

A Peritoneal Dialysis system and diagram of a kidney.

Peritoneal Dialysis twin bag system with all the supplies needed to do a dialysis exchange.

PD is a type of dialysis that is done at home on a daily basis. It involves having a small tube in the abdomen and uses the lining of the abdomen (called the peritoneum) and a cleaning solution to clean the blood. The solution absorbs waste and fluid from blood, using the peritoneum as a filter.

There are many health and lifestyle benefits of PD that help patients combat the challenges they face living with kidney failure. PD treatments can be done in any place that is clean and dry, allowing a person more freedom to work, travel, or do other activities they enjoy without worrying about scheduling dialysis appointments. And, importantly, patients have the opportunity to improve their quality of life by participating in their care plans.

For those patients who are unable to do PD, home hemodialysis may also be an option. In hemodialysis, a machine and a special filter called a dialyzer are used to clean the blood, with the dialyzer acting as an artificial kidney. This requires having an in home hemodialysis machine.

Living outside of an area that has a dialysis unit can sometimes mean a patient having to move out of their community; with home hemodialysis, patients are able to stay in their communities and receive the treatment they need.

Two Home Hemodialysis Educators posing.

Angela Robinson (left) and Susan Rawlings, Home Hemodialysis Educators at the Northern Independent Dialysis Unit at Parkwood Mall in Prince George.

“We want to keep our patients in their communities. Instead of hemodialysis running their lives, we want to fit hemodialysis into the lives they already have,” says Angela Robinson, Home Hemodialysis Educator.

Lifestyle benefits of this mobile dialysis therapy and flexible schedule allow for most patients to perform therapy while at home, at work, at school, or on vacation. Patients can spend more time with loved ones, doing the things they enjoy.

Northern Health has the highest percentage of independent hemodialysis patients in the province, with 34% of dialysis patients on PD and 13.3% on home hemodialysis. These figures are well above the suggested provincial amounts in communities such as Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson, Quesnel, Prince George, Dawson Creek, and many others in between.

For more information and resources on independent dialysis, visit the BC Renal Agency website.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital of Northern BC goes paperless

Two staff standing with a tall stack of chart copies.
Melanie Baker (left) and Teresa Ward with 5 weeks’ worth of chart copies.

Each month, the busy Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital in Prince George prints out thousands of pages of test results and patient charts – 5,500 pages or more.

A new project called Turning off Paper, or TOP, aims to help.

By having staff view the information on computer screens instead, the project will save the time and money spent handling, scanning, filing, and shredding paper. It will also help keep patient info more accurate, because it removes the chance of duplicate paper records.

Northern Health is working closely with physicians and staff to make this a seamless change.

“Most of the staff and physicians have been using the electronic lab reports for some time,” says Darcy Hamel, Manager of the ICU. “To see the drastic decrease of wasted paper and not affect how staff do their job has been fantastic.”

Another positive outcome from this change has been less chance of a medical error.

As Darcy says, “With the computer, you’re always looking at the most recent results. There’s one source of truth and you always see the most updated version.”

This change has also let nurses spend more time with their patients. “The nurses don’t need to leave a bedside,” says Darcy, “because computers are more readily available for them to see results.”

In case of power outages, there’s a “downtime” computer with all the latest data — each unit has one available.

Jesse Priseman, Projects and Planning Manager, says, “The goal is that ICU will be the first department at UHNBC to be completely electronic. It’s been a positive change, and we look forward to making other departments more environmentally friendly in 2019.”

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Facility engagement removes silos, improves teamwork in the North

Article submitted by Doctors of BC.

A group of stakeholders at the Change Day event at UHNBC.
Change Day at UHNBC – a group of stakeholders.

Facility Engagement is a provincial initiative of the Specialist Services Committee that aims to strengthen relationships and engagement between health authorities and facility-based physicians, to improve the shared work environment and the delivery of patient care.

Dr. John Smith, Past President of Medical Staff at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) and an internal medicine specialist, has been a significant contributor to the work of Facility Engagement since its inception, both as a local physician leader and as a member of the provincial Specialist Services Committee (SSC) Facility Engagement Provincial Working Group.  

Dr. Smith says that the initiative is already fixing some challenges at UNHBC. He noted that administrators are responsible for making budgetary and policy decisions, while doctors are responsible for delivering the expenditure through patient care. “Yet none of the groups were talking to each other,” he says, “which quite obviously was not leading to useful results.”

He says that as a solution, facility engagement has created opportunities and incentives for increased teamwork between the doctors and administrators, who no longer work in isolation. Benefits are already showing in the areas of patient care, physician communication, and relationships with staff and administration.

One example involves solving the difficulties of getting adequate physician coverage for hospitalized patients, because GPs need to return to their individual family practices after morning hospital rounds and may be unable to return later in the day if needed. This is a common challenge at hospitals where GPs see inpatients.

“If the physician is only at the hospital between 8 am and 10 am,” says Dr. Smith, “it’s very hard for teamwork, planning and multidisciplinary rounds to occur. As a solution, we consulted with physicians and Northern Health to establish a general internal medicine unit. It’s a completely new structure developed to foster internal medical care, co-led by a doctor and an administrator.”

Under this unit, internists were recruited to look after the needs of hospitalized patients, and take pressures off of other GPs. The internist is able to make multiple rounds of patient visits, and address urgent concerns when needed in the middle of the day. With clear benefits for patient care, Northern Health was more than happy to collaborate on the project, and fund and sustain the new unit. “It’s simply a better system. The patients who are sick are looked after in a better way,” says Dr. Smith.

Another area of change he emphasized as a result of facility engagement has been improvements in physician communication. For example, internists and family doctors felt that each did not understand the other group’s pressures and needs. “With the help of Facility Engagement, they came together, expressed their concerns and agreed on a set of rules. They have found they have greatly improved communication and collaboration.”

A third area of improved collaboration is within the general hospital community, including staff and administration. Last fall, the entire hospital community convened a “Change Day” in which physicians came together with staff and pledged to change something in the hospital for the better.

“For the first time, something like this happened in Prince George and it was very successful,” says Dr. Smith. A total of 296 pledges were collected, placing Prince George fifth in the province. The main outcome of the event was broad collaboration.

Now that internal collaboration is becoming more firmly established in UNHBC, plans are under way to broaden collaborative efforts through a planning session for all hospitals in the region. “At the moment, Prince George has a lot of effect on Fort St. John, for example,” says Dr. Smith, “but the latter has no real say in Prince George.”

Dr. Smith says that facility engagement is a “very sensible initiative. It has increased the number of physicians who are active in hospital improvements and activities. If you told me three years ago that we’d have 40 per cent of physicians involved, I’d say ’no way’, but it is happening.”

And even though he’s retiring soon, Dr. Smith says that with the exciting opportunities that this initiative has created, “I would love to be starting again!”

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Haida Gwaii Hospital has first Haida language lesson with NH staff

A group of people standing outside the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre.

The Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) visited staff at the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre in Queen Charlotte on November 30 for a learning lunch and their first Haida language lesson.

There was an impressive turnout, with about 40 staff in attendance. Luu (Kevin Borserio, language teacher) led the staff in an accessible lesson, with the elders demonstrating proper use of language.

“It was a heart-warming experience,” said Dr.Morton, a family practitioner. Staff look forward to many more lessons in the future.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Northern Doctor’s Day brings together 150 doctors from across the North

NH staff standing at the registration table for Northern Doctor's Day.

Northern Health staff welcome physicians at the registration table on Northern Doctor’s Day. Left to right: Kelsey Guldbransen, Continuing Medical Education Program Assistant, Jayleen Emery, Physician Quality Improvement Coordinator, Heather Gummow, Continuing Medical Education Program Coordinator.

The 42nd Annual Northern Doctor’s Day was held on November 2 and 3 at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) and the Courtyard Marriott in Prince George. This year, 150 doctors attended from throughout Northern BC.

The event is an annual conference that offers learning opportunities for physicians. It’s a chance for physicians throughout the North to network and build relationships, as well as to attend educational seminars. The educational program hosted a variety of topics this year including: Trauma Informed Approach to Addressing Inequity in Indigenous Health, Pharmacologic Treatments for Child/Youth Depression & Anxiety Disorders in Primary Care, and A Morning of Orthopedics for the Primary Care Physician.

Annually, Northern Doctor’s Day also features recognition of retiring physicians from the Prince George community.

Janna Olynick, Research Associate, and Erika Belanger, Research Associate, from Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCBC) offering rural physicians resources and information on practice.

 Erika Belanger and Janna Olynick, Research Associates, from Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCBC), offering rural physicians resources and information on practice.

Candice Manahan, Executive Lead, Physician Quality Improvement offers information and resources to support doctors in their practice.

Candice Manahan, Executive Lead, Physician Quality Improvement offers information and resources to support doctors in their practice.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Telehealth bridges the kilometers between patients and doctors: NH Board updated on 5-year plan

Healthcare professionals in a telehealth meeting.Imagine being able to see a specialist without having to travel away from your community. Picture your doctor being able to monitor your condition while you’re in the comfort of your own home. How would it feel to ask for a prescription refill without having to go to a clinic? Telehealth is making these possibilities a reality.

The Northern Health Board of Directors received an update on NH’s 2017-2021 telehealth plan for expanding the clinical use of telehealth to reach more people in more places. Telehealth uses different kinds of technology to provide healthcare right in people’s own communities, with no need for travel. Examples include talking to a specialist by videoconference, sharing tests electronically to another hospital, getting physiotherapy by digital monitoring, and sending data from a monitor (such as a heart monitor) directly to your doctor. Telehealth allows for prevention, screening, diagnosis, determining a course of treatment, and clinical advice – in a way that’s very similar to an in-person experience.

“Telehealth is a virtualization of new and existing services that allows for a more intimate experience than a simple phone call can provide,” said Frank Flood, regional manager of Northern Health’s telehealth department. “By using video and peripheral equipment to extend the reach of clinics and specialists, we reduce the physical and financial burden to our patients.”

A telehealth cart.Many different kinds of health care can be provided by telehealth, including:

  • Mental health and addictions
  • Chronic disease
  • Kidney health
  • Child and youth health
  • Pharmacy services
  • Emergency services
  • Specialist consultations

These services and more will be available to Northern Health patients, depending on where they live (note that not all kinds of telehealth will be available in all communities).

Telehealth will improve care in rural and remote communities, and Northern Health will be partnering with the First Nations Health Authority to use telehealth to benefit Indigenous communities. Telehealth will also strengthen healthcare for the elderly and for people who need services around pregnancy, birth, or childcare. Likewise, it can help people living with chronic disease, mental illness, or addiction.

For the first two years of the plan, financial support for expanding telehealth capacity, including continued investment in staffing, tools, and capital equipment (such as refreshing videoconference suites) will come from NH’s existing operational budget. Funding for increasing the capacity of telehealth will also be sought from outside sources, including the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues.

Overall, telehealth will reduce the impact of distance and time in bringing health services to people and their families – Northern Health is excited to provide this new level of health care support to Northerners!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Northern Doctor’s Day: Honoured retirees

Retiring doctors posing at a recent baquet.The 42nd Annual Northern Doctor’s Day retirees’ banquet was held on November 2 to honour physicians retiring in Prince George. Congratulations to the retiring doctors, and thank you for your years of serving Northerners!

Back row (L -R): Dr. Donald MacRitchie, Dr. John Smith, Dr. Bill Simpson, Dr. John Ryan, Dr. Jan Burg (Retirees), and Dr. Amin Lakhani (President of the Prince George Medical Staff Association)

Front row (L – R): Dr. Tony Preston (Prince George Medical Director), Dr. Marie Hay (Retiree), Dr. Ian Schokking (UHNBC Department Head Family Practice, Continuing Medical Education Physician Lead), Dr. Laura Brough (UHNBC Chief of Staff)

 

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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In photos: A look at BC wildfires

For information and resources about wildfires and your health, visit our wildfire information page on the Northern Health website.

A helicopter delivering water for aerial firefighting near Chetwynd in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) A helicopter delivering water for aerial firefighting (also known as a helicopter bucket) outside of Chetwynd, BC July 23 2017. To see the wildfires in your area, view the up-to-date map of BC active wildfires.

Wildfire burning near Tete Jaune Cache in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) Aerial view of a wildfire 5km east of Tete Jaune Cache (Near McBride). If you see a haze, smell smoke or know of a wildfire in your area, check the current air quality advisories in your area to see whether you should limit your time outdoors.

A BC Wildfire service member working at a blaze outside Williams Lake in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) BC Wildfire service member working at a blaze outside of Williams Lake, July 28 2017. For your safety during the wildfire season, check out the wildfire preparedness information page on Emergency info BC.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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