Health care hit (and a miss)

Area isn't included in roll out of new prenatal service, but loan relief might bring more health care workers.

In a move aimed at encouraging health care workers to practice in rural areas, the Federal government has announced that eligible family doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who work in rural communities will have a portion of their Canada Student Loan forgiven starting in spring 2013.

“This program will help strengthen primary health care in underserviced communities by encouraging health professionals to practice in rural and remote areas,” said Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl.

In Economic Action Plan 2011, the government announced that family doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who began working in a designated community on, or after, Apr. 1 2012 will be eligible to apply for partial student loan forgiveness. This applies to most communities with a population of 50,000 or less.

Family doctors and residents in family medicine will be eligible to receive up to $8,000 per year in Canada Student Loan forgiveness to a maximum of $40,000 over five years; nurses and nurse practitioners will be eligible to receive up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000 over five years.

Unfortunately, area communities are not being included in the first stage of another health initiative, this one from the Interior Health Authority. Earlier this month it launched a prenatal registry service in a number of Interior towns and regions, including Vernon, Kamloops, the Central Okanagan, and Williams Lake/Cariboo Chilcotin. Interior Health is implementing the registry using a phased approach, and plans to expand the service to all other communities within the region in early 2013.

The service provides information, resources, and services offering the best start for mother and baby, all just a phone call away. The prenatal registry is a toll-free confidential phone line (1-855-868-7710) that women can call to register for the birth of their babies, ask questions and get valuable information about services available to support a healthy pregnancy.

“Making it easy to get answers to questions that women may have while pregnant will help moms and babies get a healthy start to life,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “I look forward to seeing the pilot service expand to all Interior Health communities in the near future so all pregnant women can use the phone line to get information on services and supports available to them.”

“We are very excited about this new service and we know all pregnant women in the Interior Health region can benefit from the ease and convenience of the prenatal registry,” said Anne Clarotto, Promotion and Prevention Program Director with Interior Health..  “We will use this pilot phase to make the program the best it can be and we look forward to being able to offer it across the region in the near future.”

Barbara Roden