The Bulkley Valley Witset Primary Care Network encompasses the regions of Houston, Smithers, Witset and surrounding rural areas which are located within Wet’suwet’en Territory. Wetʼsuwetʼen means “People of the Wa Dzun Kwuh River (Bulkley River), and includes five Wet’suwet’en Clans: Gilseyhu (Big Frog), Laksilyu (Small Frog), Gitdumden (Wolf/Bear), Laksamshu (Fireweed), and Tsayu (Beaver).
The Bulkley Valley Witset Primary Care Network is the result of a collaborative effort following years of planning and engagement with partners including the Witset Nation, First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health Authority, Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice, and other community partners.
The Bulkley Valley Witset region has a catchment of approximately 18,417 patients. This population is expected to rise to 20,875 by 2026. Of note, Smithers Local Health Areas (LHA) is predicted to be younger than BC’s average in 2026, with 20% of the population of Smithers LHA predicted to be 65+ in 2026 compared to 23% of British Columbians projected to be over the age of 65 in 2026.
The Smithers Primary Care Clinic opened their doors at the beginning of 2023. It is a Nurse Practitioner/Family Physician attachment focused clinic that provides daytime, after hours, and weekend care for both attached and unattached patients. The Clinic is for people with same-day, non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses when they do not have a Family Physician, Nurse Practitioner or are unable to see their primary care provider. Nurse practitioners and Family Physicians provide full scope primary care that supports unattached/loosely attached patients and attaches these patients to a Family Physician or Nurse Practitioner within a patient medical home, supporting longitudinal primary care.
Integrated with local Family Practices, Northern Health teams, OAT teams as well as other community organizations, the clinic will co-locate the following PCN team members: Chronic Disease Management RN, Physiotherapist / Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, Dietitian, Kinesiologist, Indigenous Navigator, and a Pharmacist who will provide a wide range of primary care patient supports, including family practice outreach. A Perinatal Primary Care Nurse will be co-located within Smithers Family Physician practices offering maternity supports.
The Witset Health Centre has been in operation for 30 years serving on-reserve members of Witset. A Health Director oversees the program services, staff and quality delivery. Funded by First Nations Health Authority, each program has objectives and guidelines that must be met each year. The Health Director is responsible for managing the programs effectively, efficiently and with parsimony.
The Witset Health Centre helps to provide it’s members with an increasing range of support services close to home, and the Bulkley Valley Witset PCN further strengthens this model of in-community primary care supports.
PCN Family Physician and allied health care positions will enable Witset patients to receive community-driven, culturally safe care within their home community, prioritizing Witset community decision making and control, supporting local recruitment and retention in Witset, fostering meaningful collaboration and partnerships, and providing improved access and longitudinal continuity to primary care, functioning at a high operational standard.
Witset Indigenous PCN Health Navigators will provide trusted and experienced supports for local patients to further facilitate attachment to PCN Primary Care providers and allied team members, as well as aid in navigating access to speciality care.
The PCN health care providers will work collaboratively with the Witset Health Centre team. A Family Physician, together with: PCN Mental Health Clinician, Dietitian, Indigenous Provider, Kinesiologist, Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, and a Pharmacist will provide a wide range of comprehensive primary care supports for Witset patients, including focused outreach for vulnerable patients.
The Houston Health Centre is supported by a comprehensive team of primary care network allied health care providers, providing comprehensive, holistic, patient-centered, culturally safe care to individuals and families living in Houston and the surrounding communities.
Houston’s planned PCN supports further bolster the existing and already established Houston Health Center team by providing a PCN Nurse Practitioner who will work collaboratively with the Houston Health Centre Family Physicians and Nurse Practitioners to attach patients who are currently without a primary care provider. New Physiotherapy, Dietitian, and Kinesiologist supports will allow for the development and operationalization of publicly funded access to these health professionals, and create local Cardiac, Stroke, and Pulmonary Rehabilitation supports, as well as lifestyle supports (CHANGE BC) for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome patients.
Additional space has been acquired adjacent to the Houston Health Centre for this new and expanded primary care team that will include a physiotherapy/kinesiology patient exercise and treatment clinic.
These new resources coordinate with existing Northern Health and Interprofessional Team (IPT) resources offer a robust primary care network support for Houston patients.