Helen Owen is the executive director for the Quatse Community Health Centre.
Owen moved to Port Hardy from Prince George a year ago to be closer to family. She has worked in doctor offices and vet offices all across Canada, including rural Manitoba. She’s also worked for the Canadian Cancer Society back when she was living in northern B.C. During her tenure there she was busy overseeing fundraising campaigns, before eventually retiring in 2018.
When Owen heard about a health centre opening in town, she decided she wanted to learn more about it.
“I saw some information online about how it was being setup and I was interested in it,” she said, noting her medical background and fundraising background made her a good fit for the position, “so I thought I should reach out and see if I could help out in any way.”
Owen is currently working part time on a volunteer basis as the executive director, and her goal is to turn the health centre into a non-profit society so that they can “apply for fundraising” and “be able to give tax receipts.”
When asked what exactly a community health centre is, Owen was quick to explain that it’s “community governed, so essential to its success is community support and direction.”
She added a community health centre’s foundation is built upon evidence-based, culturally safe, accessible primary health care led by physicians, and then it branches out with different allied health providers such as pharmacists, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
There are currently four doctors confirmed for the health centre. Dr. Alex Nataros, Dr. Howard Lee, Dr. Chris Gardner and Dr. Sue Booth, an addiction’s specialist, who will be coming up from Campbell River every other week.
Owen also just announced an occuptational therapist will be joining the roster as well, and they’re currently in talks with chiropractors, massage therapists and yoga instructors to add even more important health-care components.
“It’s all a matter of getting everything setup and getting started,” laughed Owen. “We’re also in the process of setting up a board of directors, and we’re certainly looking for more people who are interested in joining our board.”
The health centre will be financed through physician overhead and community fundraising going forward.
“We’re hoping for late June, early July,” Owen confirmed when asked about the official opening date at the Thunderbird Mall location that’s being renovated. “Construction is underway and coming along.”
The space in the mall is 2,800 square feet and will feature a large waiting room, four small exam rooms, two large exam rooms, and a large central area used for yoga and group treatments like physio, massage, exercise, and various workshops.
Owen thanked the community for all the support, and she wanted to say that it’s vital “we all work together as a community to ensure adequate health care for the north end of the island. We shouldn’t be divided into sides, because the bottom line is that all of us at some point will need health care in all of its various forms, and if it’s not today then it’s in the future, and if it’s not for ourselves then it’s for a loved one. It’s not important who’s bringing the care or providing it, but that it’s available. Period.”