The Dawson Creek and District Hospital will suspend its beleaguered orthopedic program for three months, the South Peace Health Council announced today. Provincial under-funding has the program running about $400,000 to $500,000 short or about 50 per cent of what it needs.
Because of this, the hospital will not be able to replace Dr. Callie Ackermann when he leaves for three months (March, April and May) to prepare for his Royal College examinations.
“We expect urgent surgical cases from the northeast will be shipped to Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Prince George or the lower mainland,” the council said in a statement issued this morning.
“This is unfortunate, as it will be our patients that will bear the added cost of travel and added delay in receiving care.”
The hospital is running a substantial deficit, and has more than exhausted available funding for the orthopedic program, so the service will be suspended until June of 1999. The move will affect hundreds of patients across northeastern BC, as Ackermann is the only orthopedic specialist in the region. The waiting lists are currently immense, and patients can expect a six-month wait for orthopedic work. There are 135 people in need of orthopedic surgery in the area, 35 of those would require admittance to hospital and another 100 would need outpatient procedures. Another several hundred, however, have been referred to Ackermann but are awaiting their first office consultation. According to hospital CEO Rick Robinson, about half of those would require surgery.
This situation will compound the problems the hospital faces. While Robinson said the bed shortage is relatively minor, some patients cannot access beds for elective procedures. A shortage of community, long-term care facilities is forcing patients to remain in acute care, staying in beds that should be occupied by other patients, he said last week. The funding shortage is being felt through the South Peace Health Council, as it is operating with a $230,000 deficit.