PORT McNEILL — Vancouver Island Health Authority has responded to demand from North Island residents and vows to have round-the-clock coverage of the Port Hardy Hospital emergency room by this time next year.
Howard Waldner, VIHA president and CEO, made the announcement Wednesay to an audience attending the Regional Health Network's meeting on homelessness and social housing at the local community centre.
Waldner described a collaborative working model involving Port Hardy's physicians, nurses and VIHA managers. It will include the use of a new office facility, either built or leased, from which all the participants will work.
A short-term agreement was also struck with Port Hardy physicians that will ensure no closures at the Port Hardy Hospital ER between now and the Christmas holiday season, Waldner said. This coverage will involve local practitioners and, when necessary, temporary visiting locum support.
The physicians are not VIHA employees, but are independent practitioners who contract with VIHA to provide emergency room coverage. A series of closures has plagued the ER in Port Hardy over the past five years due to physicians or nurses being unable to cover shifts.
The new collaborative agreement will allow the work group to apply for up to $200,000 from the Ministry of Health through a $10 million emergency care plan for rural communities.
The agreement was reached during the VIHA Board of Directors meeting Tuesday in Port McNeill. At that meeting, Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham presented the board and VIHA executives with a letter and petition signed by 1,700 North Island residents, requesting a dedicated ER physician be hired for Port Hardy Hospital.
For full coverage of this story, see next week's print edition of the Gazette.