PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. -- A survey conducted by the North Central Local Government Association says there are still plenty of gaps in Northern B.C.'s health care system.

The survey asked its members – which consist of municipal politicians, city managers and chief administrative officers – about the challenges their communities face.

Lengthy medical travel times, a lack of specialized services, inadequate paramedic coverage and a low retention rate for health care professionals were all notable issues that came up.

“The hope of this report is that it can showcase that health care in the north is not equitable,” said NCLGA President Cori Ramsay, who also sits on Prince George city council.

She says the recruitment and retention of health care workers is a struggle across the north.

“It seems like communities are fighting over practitioners, rather than the province ponying up and providing more support, more seats and programs to create more professionals that we don’t have to fight over in the north."

Another big issue the survey discusses is medical travel.

"My uncle is on Haida Gwaii, and he had to get a bypass and get medically transported from Haida Gwaii to St. Paul’s [Hospital in Vancouver], but because of weather conditions and lack of travel he ended up having to wait an extra three days just to be medically transported,” said Ramsay.

“The results suggest that access is still a major concern for people in the Northwest,” said Peter Newbery, a retired family physician with decades of experience working in Hazelton.

When it comes to the retention of health care workers, he says it will take more than just throwing money at the problem.

"Good recruitment and good retention happen when an effective medical team comes together with the right leadership supported by the local community, and where the outlying supports in terms of nursing and medical training can be provided,” he said.

"There needs to be access to lab services, for instance, x-ray and investigative services that all come together to provide part of the package that will not only attract physicians and nurses to come and live in a particular community, but that will help them to remain and to stay."

Newbery also says expanding virtual health care services could be a solution to long medical travel.

However, he warned that not every community might have the right technology and that it could discourage medical professionals from moving up north.

“You also make it a lot easier for physicians to say, ‘well, most primary care can therefore be given online, I don't need to go and live in the small community.”

When it comes to the positives, the survey's results say some health care services are being well delivered and the quality of care from doctors and nurses is high.

It also says online health care services are working well, but some communities don’t have enough broadband to access them.

Although both the recruitment and long-term retention of health care workers in general remains a challenge, the survey says recruitment strategies for doctors in particular have been working.