Written by Michele Babchuk, MLA for the North Island
Like many of you, I have seen the heartbreaking consequences of ER closures and staffing shortages in hospitals across the North Island. In order to keep our rural communities strong and thriving, people need to have access to timely and reliable medical care, where and when they need it.
I am grateful for each and every person who has reached out to my office on this issue, and I am proud to say that changes are coming to make healthcare better.
Two weeks ago, I joined Minister Adrian Dix and Island Health CEO Kathy MacNeil to announce a $30 million healthcare package to transform healthcare in the North Island. This is a significant investment that will help stabilize healthcare in our communities.
A few months ago, I participated in a meaningful and productive roundtable discussion with healthcare partners to help identify challenges and find solutions that would work to meet our needs. The outcome was that we had a big list of investments we needed to support healthcare staff, and increase access to care. After advocating for these needs as your MLA, I could not be more thrilled to see these changes coming.
We know that staffing shortages are one part of the challenge, and that’s why we are making big changes to support staff, and recruit more. These changes include staff retention incentives, bonuses for employee referrals, and enhanced safety in our hospitals with new protection officers. We’re also improving staff accommodations and covering wages, mileage, and meal expenses for staff that are traveling between communities to fill shifts.
We’re also investing in a new shuttle to get patients and staff to and from healthcare facilities, and working to update our healthcare facilities, including purchasing a new mobile CT machine, and renovating existing spaces at the Port McNeill and Port Hardy hospitals, including upgrades to nursing stations, as well as the maternity, emergency, and trauma departments.
To relieve some of the pressure on emergency departments, we are adding more sobering assessment beds and providing 24/7 access to appropriate supportive care. We are adding four more long term care beds at the Port Hardy hospital, and increasing services for home-health, home-support, mental health, and substance use services in Port Hardy and the surrounding area. These changes will help prevent rotating or last-minute closures, to give us reliable emergency hours so people can count on help when they need it.
North Island residents will start to see some of these changes take affect within the coming months. I want to offer my thanks to all the healthcare workers in the North Island for their dedication and service to their patients and our communities, and I want you to know that your government is working hard to support you.
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