The Nov. 12 health forum meeting in Port Alice had a positive vibe. (Debra Lynn photo)

Port Alice Health Forum meeting marks a turning point in health services delivery

Special guest speakers were the highlight of the Nov. 12 meeting of the Port Alice Health Forum.

Special guest speakers were the highlight of the Nov. 12 meeting of the Port Alice Health Forum.

The first speaker was Leslie Dyck. Dyck is coordinating a federally funded project, “Decoda,” through the Mt. Waddington Literacy Society for displaced workers impacted by forest fires, mill closures and changes in the marine industry. She is looking to form two teams: one outreach team to help find displaced workers in Port Alice, and a focus group. Anyone who would be interested in being interviewed about the local impact of these changes can contact her at leslie.dyck11@gmail.com.

The next set of guest speakers included Allison Mitchell, VIHA Director of Mount Waddington/Strathcona, as well as Maria Fraser and Mike Aubie from the BC Emergency Health Services. They presented a freshly drafted guide for ambulance personnel to use in determining when the ambulance stops in Port Alice and when it goes to a higher level of care.

The guide is in its first iteration. It has gone through numerous drafts and it will be reviewed every time it is used on an ambulance call. Mitchel added that, “There’s never anything that is always black and white, and the crew will have to use their critical thinking in applying the actual guidelines…”

She announced that Dr. McKenzie will be replaced by two physicians who will share the position, Nicole Bennett and Kevin Garneau, both of whom have previously worked for the armed forces. On behalf of the forum, Valerie Eyford expressed appreciation for Dr. Mackenzie’s time spent in Port Alice, wishing him and his family well in their future endeavors.

Marijke de Zwager introduced herself as the North Island’s new midwife. She has been working on the North Island since September of 2018, and has recently started delivering babies. She graduated from the four-year midwifery degree program in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC in 2009. She has practiced in the lower mainland, Nunavet and in Haiti after the earthquake.

In 1998, BC integrated mid-wifery into the health care system. De Zwager states she “can order all the blood work, and ultrasounds and labs that any family doctor or obstetrician would order.” If things come up that are more complicated and outside her scope, then she can consult with family doctors, obstetricians and/or pediatricians.

De Zwager has a special Port Alice connection. One of her aunts was an Irish midwife who was sent to work in Port Alice during the 60s. During the meeting, Councillor Sean Watson mentioned that he was born during that time and that, because the midwife who delivered him was Irish (confirmed to be de Zwager’s aunt), he has an Irish name.

If anyone is interested in contacting de Zwager for her services, has questions, or is interested in a career in midwifery they can contact her at: northislandmidwifery@gmail.com. People can also contact her by phone at 250-230-8766.

Eyford brought up a meeting she had with Dermot Kelly, Executive Director of Geography 1, and other VIHA board members on Oct. 9 to discuss the happenings of the past year. Eyford told Kelly, after all the issues that happened, they we were ultimately pleased with a number of outcomes: the additional hours for mental health and substance use, the handicap doors and washroom, the increase in home support hours, and the fact that Port Alice still has its emergency room equipment. She later put her comments in a formal letter to VIHA.

The next meeting of the Forum will be on January 14th at 3 pm at the community centre.

– Debra Lynn article

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