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Port McNeill Medical Clinic says lack of support from Island Health forced them to close their services

“We are wanting regional equality with Port Hardy”
The Port McNeill Medical Clinic has announced it will be closing its services due to a lack of support from Island Health. (Port McNeill Medical Clinic Facebook photo)

Update 7:25 p.m., Dec. 8 - The Port McNeill Medical Clinic has said they will be able to continue with clinic services.



The Port McNeill Medical Clinic announced on Tuesday (Dec. 8) that due to a lack of support from Island Health it is closing their services until further notice.

“We will keep current bookings but will not be taking calls, nor future appointments,” the clinic said on its social media page. “Please direct all questions and requests to Island Health and your elected local officials.”

The clinic added from now on all residents’ health needs will be addressed through the Port McNeill & District Hospital.

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Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom was clearly frustrated after hearing the news about the clinic shutting down its services, telling the Gazette that the dispute is “concerning for us, especially as we are starting to hear of COVID in our region. So many surrounding communities rely on the availability of a clinic in Port McNeill. It’s been stressful for people needing to access care.”

Wickstrom added in a social media post that residents need to speak up and write letters to Island Health to help put pressure on all parties to find a solution to the current situation.

The main reason behind the closure is due to the clinic feeling like it has been left with minimal options.

“We are wanting regional equality with Port Hardy,” the clinic’s spokesperson said in an interview with the Gazette, noting it’s never been about financial compensation or funding for equipment. “It’s about changing the model [of health care].”

According to the spokesperson, it is the only medical clinic north of Campbell River that is run by independent and private physicians, which is causing it to spend too much of their time running a business and not enough time as doctors.

Island Health pointed out private clinics in rural and remote areas like Ucluelet, Tofino, and Salt Spring Island as examples.

“Port Hardy was in the same situation as us around 10 years ago, but Island Health changed the model which enabled them to get staff and doctors,” the clinic’s spokesperson said, adding that Port Hardy’s medical clinic is in fact owned and operated by Island Health, which is ultimately what’s creating the lack of health care equality between the neighbouring towns.

Port Hardy’s population was listed in the 2016 census as 4,132. Port McNeill’s was 2,064.

When asked if Island Health has provided the clinic with any financial support over the years, the clinic said Island Health had promised to help, but they haven’t committed to what was promised.

This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, and the clinic made the decision to close services until further notice.

The Gazette contacted Island Health for their response and they sent in this statement:

“We recognize that with the recent departure of two physicians from the Port McNeill Medical Clinic (PMMC), this has been a challenging situation for the remaining physicians. However, family physicians are private, independent business people who choose where they want to locate their medical practice.”

“While Island Health is not responsible for recruiting family physicians into private practice, for the last several months, Island Health has been working collaboratively with the Doctors of BC and the PMMC to identify and explore options to create a sustainable model for the clinic and its physicians.”

“We are committed to continuing to work with the PMMC into the future, with the continued shared goal of developing a sustainable model to support the clinic and the communities served. In the interim, Island Health, in collaboration with the First Nations Health Authority, will work to immediately implement contingency plans and we will share details as they come together.”


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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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