It was a battle that was well worth the fight.
After Port Alice residents became infuriated by VIHA’s proposed changes to the Port Alice Health Centre nine months ago, they can now put away their “Port Alice Lives Matter” signs and celebrate the fact that their emergency room will remain intact. The battle for health care is not completely won, however, as there remains the matter of the 24/7 on-call emergency staffing that is yet to be fully implemented.
At a meeting of the Port Alice Health Forum Society on May 7, Valerie Eyford, chair of the society, read out a summary of a meeting that occurred on May 6 at the Village of Port Alice Council Chambers that included Dermot Kelly, Executive Director, Island Health Geography 1; Alison Mitchel, Director, Mount Waddington/Strathcona, Island Health (by phone); Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron; Councillor Holly Aldis; Bonnie Danyk, CAO, Village of Port Alice, and herself.
Before reading an overview of what had been resolved pertaining to the changes at the Port Alice Health Centre, Eyford proclaimed, “These points we feel are resolved to our liking.”
The emergency room will be left intact with all equipment to be left in place and stocked. The social worker/counsellor position has become permanent at four days a week. Home care will operate seven days a week, including evenings. The adult day program has started and is being well received. A contractor has been hired to begin work in June installing the handicap doors and washroom. Doctor’s hours have been finalized, and Dr. Makenzie is under contract until 2020. He will have clinic hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and will be on call from Sunday evening to Thursdays at 4:30 p.m.
The still unresolved issue of the on-call RN nursing coverage for emergency/urgent care evenings and weekends will be dealt with at later meetings.
At previous meetings there was concern that having a sole nurse on-call evenings and weekends posed a security risk, which made VIHA reluctant to implement the staffing. Cameron mentioned that ambulance attendants should remain with the client, therefore resolving security issues for the RN.
The bathing program will be left for now and will be revisited in the future. Meeting participants then discussed the importance of a bathing program, with Eyford stating that, “it’s not totally a matter of cleanliness.” Century whirlpool tubs with a lift are also therapeutic for people who are paralyzed and prone to muscle spasms, and to people with arthritis. Sandra Morgan noted it is also useful when diabetics have skin break downs: once the skin opens up, patients have to have a bath in order to get the wound cleaned well enough to be rebandaged and treated. Eyford asserted that, “We’re not going to let it go, but we’re going to let it go for now so we can resolve the emergency issues.”
At the end of the meeting, participants discussed factors that helped to bring about the shift in VIHA’s position. Valerie Eyford felt that when she sent her letter to the editor of the North Island Gazette, and then copies to North Island MLA Claire Trevena and Health Minister Adrian Dix, there seemed to be a real turnabout in VIHA’s attitude to these issues.
Alma Vantschip added “the only reason things changed is when the media got involved. It did not change until the media got involved…”
The next meeting of the health forum will be June 11 at 3 p.m in room 101 of the Port Alice Community Centre.
– Debra Lynn article