Residents who may have lost their family doctor will be happy to know that three new doctors and a surgeon are slated to begin arriving here next month.
This will bring the total number of family physicians up to 13 and Northern Health also says that a new general surgeon is on his way later this year as well.
The first new doctor, Dr. Cesar Lacsamana, is a graduate of the Saint Paul’s residency program in Vancouver and will practice in Terrace on a two-year contract that begins just after the August long weekend.
This is the first new doctor to start in Terrace since the departure of Dr. Nanette Fourie last March.
“We’re looking forward to having Dr. Lacsamana start here,” said Dr. Geoffrey Appleton who is the local medical director for Northern Health.
A new pilot program is also aiming to settle a new foreign doctor from South Africa in Terrace on a three-year contract in September, however, the candidate has yet to graduate.
Dr. Ali Mohammad is currently placed in Prince Rupert pending his start date in Terrace and will take over Dr. Appleton’s part-time practice when he retires this fall.
Another two doctors – Dr. Aniedi Dear, a general surgeon, and Dr. Natasha De Sousa, a family physician, have confirmed with Northern Health that they plan to relocate to Terrace later this year or early next year.
According to Northern Health, they are still struggling to fill the positions of specialist doctors.
Urologist Dr. Francis Osie-Tutu retired this summer and Dr. Leilani Therese Almas retired from her gynecology position earlier this year and now works solely as a general practitioner.
Neither vacancy has been filled yet, and the community will still rely on the expertise of the retired specialists.
According to Northern Health the retired urologist and gynecologist will still be on hand in case of emergency.
Dr. Almas remains on-call with the prenatal clinic and three general practitioners in Terrace overseeing high risk.
There is one candidate for taking over the urologist’s practice who intends to come for a site visit in August.
Despite the surge of family doctors coming into the community, Terrace numbers still aren’t where Northern Health would like them to be, said Appleton.
“There are four general practitioners who are interested in retiring if and when we find replacements for them,” he noted.
To solve this problem, Northern Health is looking ahead at a new program called the Practice Readiness Assessment Program which brings foreign doctors into the province. The program is new to B.C. and the first cohort began its 12-week program in various northern communities last May.
Currently, B.C. only accepts physicians from Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the U.S.A. and all other foreign doctors must pass a screening program in order to practice in Canada.
The Practice Readiness Assessment Program is still in its pilot phase, but requires the doctors to sign a contract to practice in a rural community in B.C. for three years.
“We are really behind in this province actually,” remarked Appleton explaining that most other provinces have had these programs for years.
All of B.C.’s foreign doctors have originally moved to another province on a contract before they were able to move to practice in rural BC.
Appleton said that this should change starting with Dr. Mohammad who is currently in the program.
“In a nutshell, I am optimistic for general practice here in Terrace,” he said