With the doctor shortage in BC as severe as it is, it is difficult if not impossible for me to understand why a doctor who has worked in Port McNeill for the past 15 years is, despite the wishes of his community, being ignored by the Island Health Authority (IH).
I am of course referring to Dr. Armogam and the move by IH to establish a Health Authority owned and operated clinic here in Port McNeill. And what I find concerning is Island Health’s apparent intention to not enter into a contract for Dr. Armogam’s services beyond the six to 12 month transition period to the new IH model.
We have a doctor currently living here and one, who for the past 15 years has come to know and treat just about everyone in the area. Yet in this time of a province-wide doctor shortage crisis, Island Health explains their plan of transition as being one of using locums (temporary doctors) and interim placements, again temporary doctors, while they search for and attempt to recruit, in this extremely competitive environment, new full time doctors.
Doctors specializing in family practices are a rare find in this province and the competition for them is fierce. Many towns have put together attractive incentive packages, backed by experienced recruiting teams made up of local healthcare professionals, politicians, health authorities, business people and service clubs and they are constantly searching for doctors willing to move to their community.
Yet here we are with one already in place, already known and, when I asked him, he indicated he wants to stay and work despite the purported cold shoulder of our health authority.
Dr. Armogam explained the situation to me on Friday (May 15) saying, “They (Island Health) would like me to transfer all McNeill patients within six months and work half days for a further six months,” to handle the balance of patient transfers. This he explained, without any permanent doctors in place and without a secured permanent building, adding, “And they have not asked patients what they want.”
According to Armogam, “Island Health does not want me to be part of a Vancouver Island Health Authority Clinic.”
Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom told me she wasn’t happy with what is happening with Dr Armogam, adding, “His patients want to see him continue and I’d like to see him continue and if there is someway Island Health and he can come to an arrangement, I’d be happy with that.”
Island Health has not responded to my questions concerning the matter and Dr. Armogam feels part of the problem may lie in the advocacy role he took on, explaining, “Being a thorn in their side and essentially pushing them over this finish line [the new clinic model] has not won me favour with them.”
This is not a time for antics of any kind. We now find ourselves in a local doctor shortage crisis, within a province in the midst of a similar crisis, yet Island Health, for whatever reason, seems to have chosen to ignore our local physician.
Personally, I don’t care if the Health Authority doesn’t like Dr. Armogam or his efforts to improve Port McNeill health services. The town wants to keep him and it is time for Island Health to stop any foolishness, listen to the community, step up to the plate and do whatever it will take to keep him here and in the new clinic.
There are hundreds of communities that would snap him up in a minute and it is time for those responsible to do what it takes to make sure that this is the community that keeps the doctor we already have.
Editor’s Note – Bill McQuarrie writes often about community issues, giving you an opportunity to join the discussion and make your opinions heard. Tell us what you think about this opinion piece of his.
Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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