DAWSON CREEK -- Anti-vaccine, anti-science sentiments in the north could be adding to the region’s healthcare staffing shortage, according to the President of the Canadian medical Association and the MLA for Peace River South.

Prior to the pandemic, Northern Health was already suffering from a healthcare staffing shortage.

MLA Mike Bernier says things could get even worse because the area has developed a reputation for not listening to advice from doctors.  

“A doctor called me on Saturday and said, Mike I had 6 people in my office today with COVID-19 symptoms and I told them to get tested, I told them to go get vaccinated it’s the right thing to do and they argued with me saying ‘that’s not what they read on Facebook,’” he said.  

The president of the Canadian Medical Association Dr. Katharine Smart shares the same opinion and says it’s been a challenge for doctors to combat circulating misinformation on the internet.

“I think that we’re definitely seeing that there are pockets across Canada where the vaccine hesitancy and disbelief is extremely high and it’s unfortunately partnered with sometimes aggressive and harassing behaviour towards healthcare professionals and I think it’s that combination that’s really dangerous for recruitment,” said Dr. Smart.

Dr. Smart says areas showing high levels of vaccine hesitancy, like in the Peace Region, have a direct impact on doctors and nurses wanting to live there.

“It’s very disheartening for doctors to see patients here in the north sacrificing their health and dying because they believed misinformation they read online or heard from a friend.”

The workload for healthcare professionals in rural areas is already very high.

They have less resources than major cities to manage patient care and the pandemic has only increased that demand.