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LETTER: ‘As a rural community, we have been invisible to our health authority’

‘I believe it is important to seek a tangible response and hold the health authority accountable’
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Dear editor,

Thank you for the recent editorial regarding the new medical clinic for Port McNeill and supporting the need for informed patient choice.

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It is hoped that the new Island Health owned and operated clinic in McNeill, while helping with physician recruitment and retention, will also have metrics in place to measure the success of this new model and a resulting improvement in access to care. This has unfortunately not been the case in other health authority owned clinics. I believe it is also important to inform the community of other regional healthcare issues. Issues that as the longest serving regional physician, I can attest to first hand.

I believe that as a rural community, we have been invisible to our health authority, whose responsibility it has been to ensure that the needs of the entire North Island region are met.

Some communities within our region have, by being vocal, been more successful than others, while others have unfortunately got attention only through adverse events in that community. The pandemic has made things difficult for us all on so many levels of our everyday lives and that includes how we access medical care.

Unfortunately, the problems of our regional healthcare model pre-date the pandemic and I believe that it is important to list some of those, including:

1. The struggle to provide predictable and competent emergency care in circumstances that often include an absence of basic diagnostic testing and staff capacity.

2. Culturally unsafe and insensitive care.

3. The absence of a formalized regional maternity program although some progress with regional midwives has been made.

4. Hospital diversions, mainly between Ports McNeill and Hardy, often with no timely or standardized messaging, creating confusion and affecting patient safety.

5. Lack of real time support for hospital nursing staff in patient access and flow, with an expectation of nurses to do more things (often administrative) that take away from being nurses.

6. Lack of ongoing nursing education and training, especially in dealing with acutely sick patients.

7. Large numbers of rotational agency nurses (given poor regional nursing recruitment) often with little orientation or support.

8. Continued lack of support for hospital and ER mental health patients, especially in areas of child and youth mental health.

9. Provincial physician return of service programs administered by the health authority that is not rural focussed.

10. Local physicians group having no audience with the health authority executive to achieve change and improve care.

Over the years, local leaders have repeatedly taken these problems along with proposed solutions to Island Heath executives. These have been ignored, yet I believe that it is important to seek a tangible response and hold the health authority accountable for what is and isn’t being done to improve care in our region.

Dr. Prean Armogam,

Port McNeill

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Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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