Operating rooms in the region could be running more smoothly now that funds have been secured for more locum anesthesiologists.
The British Columbia Medical Association (BCMA), through its rural programs, will provide up to 10 days of locum coverage per year to general practitioners with training in anesthesia in certain rural communities - including Prince George. It should allow operating rooms to be open more often and could reduce wait times.
"If you have an anesthesiologist that goes on holidays or goes away for education leave or leaves the room empty for any reason, then surgeries get canceled and there's not got continuity of care," BCMA president Shelley Ross said. "The waits list get longer and patients don't get taken care of."
Doctors can begin to apply for locum coverage on Monday and Ross expects patients will notice the difference. Now there will be less of a chance of their surgery being postponed.
"If you're on the wait list and you say, 'Oh good I'm going to have my surgery on Tuesday' then all of a sudden you realize, 'Guess what I'm not because my anesthesiologist is now away for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and I won't be getting it until Friday if I'm lucky,' " Ross said, presenting a situation familiar for some patients.
The new program dovetails with an existing one that gives specialist anesthesiologists up to 30 days of locum coverage each year. In order to qualify for the GP locums communities must meet certain criteria, including having seven or fewer anesthesiologists.
Ross said the program is needed due to the challenges in finding doctors in rural and northern parts of the province. However she said there is a pool of doctors who are willing to move around from place to place to staff this new program.
"There's a group of doctors that rather than having a set place they like to work, that like to go around and do locum work," she said. "It gives them a better variety, it lets them see different parts of the country."