DEBRA LYNN PHOTO The boardroom in the Port Alice Community Centre was well attended for the Health Forum AGM on April 9.

Port Alice residents’ input on changes to health centre gets ignored

In ending her letter, Bjarnason called this proposal “an agreed upon model of care.”

There was a strong showing of members and concerned citizens at the Port Alice Health Forum AGM at the Port Alice Community Centre on April 9.

After re-electing the same board members and adding a couple of new directors, dealing with reports and making announcements about upcoming events, the focus of the meeting soon arrived at the dreaded proposed changes to health services in Port Alice.

People were eager to hear the results of a closed meeting that took place on March 25 that included Vice President of Clinical Services Delivery Elin Bjarnason; Medical Director Mount Waddington/Strathcona Dr. Preianathan Armogam; Director Mount Waddington/Strathcona Alison Mitchell; Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron; Councillor Holly Aldis; Village of Port Alice CAO Bonnie Danyk; Operations Manager of Western Forest Products Vince Devlin; Health Forum Chair Valerie Eyford; Forum director Polly Steele, and Forum member Brenda Stevenson.

The Forum had received a written response from Bjarnason to their “input.” In essence: no change.

In her letter, Bjarnason outlines that there will continue to be 0.8 FTE physician contract, including on call provisions Monday to Thursday. There will be a registered nurse scheduled seven days per week to support urgent, primary and community care.

The new social worker position will become permanent. The seven days a week home care will be maintained.

Adult day programming will be implemented.

They will explore the feasibility of a bathing program at the health centre. Bjarnason claims that the facility will not be altered without “community consultation and agreement,” though there has not been a lot of that happening lately.

Although the elimination of emergency care in Port Alice is the main concern of resident protests, Bjarnason hasn’t seemed to notice.

Only “urgent care” was mentioned in her proposal for the health centre, even referring to the emergency room as the “urgent care room.”

Eyford pointed out, from Island Health literature, that “urgent care” deals with issues like sprains and strains, urinary tract infections, moderate asthma symptoms, cuts or wounds, minor injuries, moderate backaches, abdominal pain and migraines.

She added that “emergency care” includes difficulty breathing, broken bones, chest pains, serious burns and babies that are hard to rouse. Care for these life-threatening issues are to be covered by 24/7 ambulance services to the nearest appropriate hospital that could be anywhere from 45 minutes to seven hours away.

In ending her letter, Bjarnason called this proposal “an agreed upon model of care.”

Eyford states that, in the meeting on March 25th, “the people present were not in agreement with this service delivery model and, when the meeting was adjourned, she said she would get back to us with what they decide.”

Eyford added they had no real input, calling the process nothing more than an “illusion of consultation.” Except for mention of the possibility of having a nurse in Port Alice seven days a week, which seems to not be scheduled as such due to apparent “recruitment problems,” the proposal is an exact match to the one they said they would be implementing when discussions began in September of 2018.

On the positive side, a wheelchair accessible washroom and automatic doors for the Health Centre have been scheduled to be completed, a project that was initially proposed in 1994.

In considering next steps, Jan Allen put forward a motion that residents write Mayor Kevin Cameron to let him know they would like him to have a meeting with North Island MLA Claire Trevena and Minister of Health Adrian Dix to discuss their concerns. Rose Hickling suggested the Forum should consult “McLaughlin On Your Side”, an advocacy program on CTV News for people dealing with injustice.

The next meeting of the Port Alice Health Forum will take place on May 7 at 3 pm in room 101 of the Port Alice Community Centre.

– Debra Lynn article

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