Northern Health drumming up support, funding for medical housing in Fort St. John

Northern Health is looking to build a "home away from home" for out-of-town patients needing medical care in Fort St. John.

The idea is in its early stages, but officials say Fort St. John is a growing medical services centre for the northeast, with 16% of patients at the hospital coming from outside the city to access chemotherapy, maternity services, medical imaging, dialysis, and visiting specialists.

However, the high costs of travel and accommodations are barriers for many patients, said Angela De Smit, chief operating officer for Northern Health in the Northeast. Pregnant women in Fort Nelson, for example, have to leave the community for up to six weeks and often stay in hotels far from family supports to deliver their baby in Fort St. John.

"Our vision is to establish a home away from home for short stay accommodations for northeast families requiring health services in Fort St. John," De Smit told a meeting of the Rotary Club of Fort St. John on Thursday.

"This is to demonstrate the care that we have, and the regional focus, for those who are fortunate to had those services within our community, and offering them to other communities within the northeast and to try to reduce those barriers."

Similar short-term housing for medical patients already exists in Peace River at the Shell Rotary House. A seven-room house is being readied to open this year in Dawson Creek, De Smit noted.

The health authority is looking for community partnerships to drum up the capital needed to establish a house in Fort St. John, either through existing housing or a new build. It would look to partner with a non-profit for its ongoing operations, De Smit said.

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