North Island MLA Claire Trevena has gone to bat for the villages of Port Alice and Alert Bay.
Trevena wrote a lengthy letter to Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, expressing serious concerns about Island Health’s plans for Port Alice to “effectively operate a 9-5 service at the Health Clinic with a part time doctor” adding this could leave residents “vulnerable in the case of emergency.”
Trevena continued, noting Port Alice welcomes “the provision of community care for mental health and addictions as well as the services for seniors Island Health says it will provide; but, as a comparatively isolated community with an aging demographic, it is worried about the potential lack of urgent care.”
The letter also states Trevena has talked with Port Alice about “what primary care can look like, about the potential of attracting a Nurse Practitioner as well as optimizing the Community Paramedic who is based in the village. I am however concerned about the consultation and communication with Island Health about the plans for the community.”
According to Trevena’s letter, Island Health carried out community consultation back in June; however, the meeting was in the middle of the afternoon, only 11 people showed up and filled out questionnaires, and “a resulting report showed preferences based on that limited discussion.”
As for Alert Bay, Trevena’s letter noted the village is “very concerned about limited dialogue between its population and Island Health.”
Alert Bay “believes there was both lack of transparency and lack of real involvement from the communities. The Village of Alert Bay describes themselves as ‘blindsided’,” wrote Trevena, who then added both villages feel that Island Health “had already made its decision as part of a remodelling of health care … in the North Island. This is unfortunate as community involvement, engagement and understanding are vital for the delivery of primary health care to be successful.”
Trevena finished the letter by stating she hopes that through future discussions Dix has with Island Health, “these concerns can be raised and that Island Health can be encouraged to have a better dialogue with people and communities in the rural areas it serves.”
The letter was cc’d to Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron, Port Alice Health Forum’s Valerie Eyford, Alert Bay Mayor Dennis Buchanan, Island Health CEO Kathy MacNeil, and Executive Director for Island Health Dermot Kelly.
Island Health emailed the North Island Gazette a detailed response, which you can read below:
For the past two years Island Health has been engaging with health-care partners and the communities of Port Alice and Alert Bay on how best to support the future primary and community care needs in a way that reflects changing demographics, a changing workforce and an evolving health system design as outlined by the Ministry of Health in its strategy on team based primary and community care. We recognize the need for community involvement and consultation regarding service changes and are committed to continuing open dialogue with both communities.
In Port Alice, local leadership has attended the Port Alice Health Forum as a regular member and provided updates as required. In addition, and prior to MLA Trevena’s letter, we met with the previous council and after the recent election we met with the new mayor and council members and have recommitted to community engagement and have requested their support. Most recently, Island Health’s leadership met with Port Alice’s mayor and council on January 14, 2019 to further the conversation about changes and enhancements in service delivery. In the coming weeks we will engage with the community to increase awareness of the new and upcoming service changes in the region.
In Alert Bay, we have had meetings with the Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay and are committed to ongoing conversations.
Service changes in Port Alice include:
· Investing in community services and adding to the centre’s health-care team in order to strengthen Port Alice’s network of care and better meet the needs of the community by increasing services for two of our most vulnerable populations – frail seniors and individuals living with mental health and substance use conditions.
· Increasing the number home care hours and expanding the service to evenings and weekends.
· After-hours advice from trained nurses will continue to be available 24/7 via 8-1-1, while emergency services will continue to be provided by the local B.C. Ambulance Service.