Local residents could see a major benefit of the new Mills Memorial Hospital currently under construction – elective orthopedic surgery.
Elective orthopedic surgery, primarily joint replacements, is now only offered at Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat and Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in Prince Rupert in that region, but with the new Mills Memorial designated as the hospital North West Central for level III trauma care, the possibility exists.
Health care planners early on allocated five beds for orthopedics under “Consolidation of Surgical Beds – NW Inpatient Orthopedic Surgeries” in the New Mills, as part of an increase to 78 beds from 44 current.
The decision to upgrade to Level III trauma status with offerings as large as orthopedic services in Terrace dates back to a business plan developed in 2018.
A Level III trauma designation means that patients now in need of advanced emergency care will no longer need to be taken elsewhere for treatment, which typically means a flight out of the area.
After receiving this critical care, patients are then transported north to recover.
Staff and service needs are such that services are offered 24/7. There will also be four operating theaters, compared to three currently.
Mills will be the sixth level III trauma center in the province and the second in northern British Columbia after Northern British Columbia University Hospital in Prince George.
And a 2014 review of surgical services in northern British Columbia recommended starting planning for consolidation of joint replacement surgery in the northwest at a new Mills, describing it as a central hospital for the region.
Chris Simms, a local official with the Northern Health Authority and a key part of the planning team for the new mills, said it was still too early to say how many orthopedic surgeons might be needed in the new mills to staff fully staff up to level III trauma. designation.
And he said the prospect of local elective orthopedic surgery should be viewed in a regional context as a pool of service, as current planning requires that orthopedics continue to be offered in Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
Depending on availability, a local GP can refer a local patient to an orthopedic surgeon in Kitimat or Prince Rupert, Simms added.
âIt would be what we would call a northwest approach,â he said of the pooling strategy.
The urology, ear, nose, throat and plastics specialists now based in Terrace provide outreach services to other hospitals, Simms added as examples of pooling in the region.
âThe important thing is to have trauma care here,â he said. âIt will be so much better for patients and families. “