Medic North

Remote healthcare experts

Sean Ivens, founder and CEO of Medic North Emergency Services, knows business. This Yellowknife native grew his business from a small company providing first-aid training and supplies to businesses, to a multi-million dollar provider of air medevac programs and industrial medical services to remote mining, oil and gas sites. Today, Medic North is an industry leader with a promising outlook—which is exactly the kind of Canadian success CBJ likes to investigate.

Overall operations

Medic North has been a major provider of pre-hospital services in the Northwest Territories since 1995. These encompass emergency evacuation services from remote locations, as well as remote site medical services including supply and pharmaceutical procurement. This particular business requires a number of smoothly functioning elements including medical personnel, supplies, and necessary equipment to mobilize a remote industrial site. For example, clients in the mining or oil and gas industry set up new exploration or work sites and due to the remote locations, require medical services on-site. The infrastructure and support that is required to facilitate that kind of comprehensive service is precisely the speciality of Medic North.

As the only company of its kind headquartered in the Northwest Territories, the company has a unique edge in that it is “100 per cent Northern owned and operated,” Ivens notes proudly. This has obviously been a positive force, as Medic North has a significant market share and experienced an enormous growth period several years ago. He adds, “We have also developed several joint ventures with different organizations across Canada.” For example, the company partners with First Nations groups to provide services for some partner companies.

The company also has a contract with the government of the Northwest Territories to be the exclusive provider of emergency evacuation services. Signed three years ago, this was another point of success for the business. The contract for medevac services functions as an extension of a government contract under the public healthcare banner. Explains Ivens, “There is a separate contract for the aircraft, and we have the contract for the air service.” This involves providing qualified medic and paramedic personnel as well as supplies.

Company challenges

There are a number of challenges to running a business servicing remote locations. As expected, the primary challenge involves staffing requirements. Says Ivens, “Finding high quality and qualified personnel is always a challenge. Aside from that—which is maybe not a unique challenge—logistics is one of our foremost challenges.” So how has the company dealt with this problem? Ivens explains the most successful approach is utilizing a rotational type schedule for both industrial site work and medevac operations.

Staff live all across Canada, and are constantly being moved back and forth across the country. For the case of remote industrial site contracts clients typically provide the air travel to get into the site. For medevac operations, a similar arrangement was found to be optimal. Explains Ivens, “We have found that the needs of our employees were such that living in Yellowknife was not a viable option, so for the sake of recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction, we’ve decided to go through a rotational type schedule similar to what we go through on industrial type sites.” The company has housing on both base sites in Yellowknife and Inuvik and fly in its staff for set rotations. Thus far, the arrangement seems to be working well.

Company philosophy

Medic North runs like a well-oiled machine; it is easy to see that efforts and management have been heavily focused on growth and infrastructure development. And while evidently successful, there is a new management era embarking at Medic North. Ivens concedes that there during this ambitious period of growth “we lost sight of our human side.” The company intends to shift some of its focus to staff and employees. “That’s our philosophy now as management; to communicate with them and listen to their needs.” Given the aforementioned difficulties retaining quality staff for remote locations, this is a smart manoeuvre for management.

Beyond the recession: future growth

How did Medic North fare during the recent economic downturn? Ivens notes that there was definitely an impact. The explosive growth that the company experienced in the years prior to the recession was stunted; but he is quick to point out this is nothing unusual. “Nobody is immune,” he says, noting a marked difference in operational spending across the board. “We’ve had clients come to us and say they have to cut back, so then we’ve turned around and done the same to our suppliers. I don’t think it’s anything unique.” Fortunately things are beginning to pick up again. Says Ivens, “We are starting to see some rumbling in the mining and exploration industries that companies are starting to look into projects again—and even starting to mobilize.”

Medic North plans to capitalize again on its once exponential growth now that the economy is beginning to stabilize. Says Ivens, “We’re looking not only domestic but internationally as well, and we have a lot of potential to take the company global.” The company is looking to expand into some new markets, as well as develop its quality assurance and quality control programs. In demonstration of that, it has recently received its ISO Quality Management Certificate, as well as its OHSAS Occupational Health and Safety Certification; both huge milestones for a smaller organization such as Medic North, and an intuitively smart move for a company thinking of going global. Notes Ivens, “Having all of those certifications will certainly give us some traction when looking at international markets.”

It is easy to see why Ivens was recently named one of Canada’s ‘Top 40 Under 40’. Medic North is a proud, multi-million dollar Canadian company set to gain a place in the global market. With a solid and proven logistical and operational framework—and a little bit of humanity—Medic North is sure to see an inspiring future.