DAWSON CREEK -- Usually in northern BC, it’s the patient who has trouble finding a doctor. While family physicians in the Peace Region are scarce, specialists are even more so.

But at Eljen Medical Clinic in Dawson Creek, one gynecologist is having the opposite problem.

“I’ve seen a fair amount of people, but I still have plenty of spare capacity.

Dr. Sharma has been practicing in town since the beginning of March, and he says he’s been having trouble finding patients. Dawson Creek hasn’t has a gynecologist in approximately two years, and doctors and staff at the clinic believe patients aren’t aware that they can get referred to someone in town.

“I think they weren’t used to having a gynecologist around,” says Dr. Daniel Botha, a family physician at Eljen. “So they were always thinking, ‘we’ll go somewhere else.’”

During the time when there was no OB-GYN in town, doctors would have to refer their patients to specialists in Fort St. John, Prince George, or Grande Prairie. Sometimes, those patients sit on waiting lists that are months long.

“Some people are just waiting on the list to see someone, not knowing that we have a physician in Dawson Creek,” says Michelle Girard, Eljen’s office manager.

Dr. Sharma says its important to have OB-GYN services readily available to locals. He deals with things like high-risk pregnancies, and performs major and minor surgeries. He says it’s better for patients if they don’t have to travel hundreds of kilometers to access those services.

Dawson Creek mayor Dale Bumstead says the city has been expanding maternity services for that same reason – including the dedicated Chickadee maternity clinic.

“It’s unusual for me to hear the OB-GYN is not seeing the referrals from family physicians, because I know how strong maternity services are in terms of our community here,” says Bumstead.

It’s common for doctors in northern BC to leave after a few years of practicing here. But Dr. Sharma says he has family here, and he’s here to stay. In the meantime, he says he’s also trying to get the word out about his practice.

“I’m meeting with as many family doctors as I can,” says Dr. Sharma. “I’m also hoping to travel to neighbouring areas – Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge – and meet the people so they know what I’m able to offer here.”