PORT HARDY—Mayor Bev Parnham was able to impart some good news for Port Hardy’s health care at last week’s council meeting: “I’m happy to be able to tell you that a new physician has been hired for Port Hardy.”
The new addition is expected to arrive on the North Island in the near future on a two-year contract.
But the good news was tempered by a growing concern over VIHA’s commitment to building a new facility in the town.
Councillors saw a copy of a strongly worded letter to the VIHA board questioning its commitment to the North Island project.
“We seem to be getting mired up in a lot of technicalities,” explained the mayor. “We’re planning it to death — we know what we want up here but VIHA isn’t listening.”
As a result of frustration with emergency room closures in 2011, a Local Working Group formed and, over a six-month period, drafted a series of recommendations which were presented to VIHA.
Among those recommendations was Mission Critical Recommendation 32, which recommended “VIHA … support the creation of two integrated Community Care Facilities in the region, starting with Port Hardy.”
The response to the LWG’s report was in favour of this move: “VIHA wholeheartedly endorses this recommendation and has committed $100,000 in 2012/2013 to begin planning in earnest.”
In subsequent meetings, the LWG was informed that a capital planning marker had been put in place to fund construction of the facility in 2014. But recently the mayor noted with concern a repeated suggestion from VIHA representatives that the proposed integrated healthcare model could be implemented without building a new facility.
In her letter, the mayor pointed to the recently completed Oceanside Health Centre in Parksville as an example of the LWG’s vision, and underscored the importance of having all providers under one roof before noting the disparities between the progress on the two projects.
“The Oceanside project managed to go from concept to design to finish within eighteen months. Port Hardy citizens are asking why it is taking so long for our facility to be built and I am asking on their behalf why our very committed but exhausted Local Working Group seems to be sent back to the drawing board time after time by VIHA regarding this project. I am also asking whether the (VIHA) Board is still committed to this project and a 2014 build date for the first facility in Port Hardy?”
The letter also asks “Why should the citizens of Port Hardy and the Mt. Waddington region be satisfied with less than the standard of care and superior health outcomes enjoyed by larger communities in the VIHA region from Campbell River south?”
The VIHA board will be on the North Island some time around late September for a board meeting, and councillors looked forward to airing their concerns in person. The exact date is still to be finalized.
Council gave approval for the purchase of a light duty truck by Port Hardy Fire Rescue, though the approval comes with caveats.
Fire Chief Schell Nickerson requested approval for the purchase of the $9,000 vehicle, a 2006 F250 from Courtenay Fire Department. Nickerson proposed using funds from the Capital Works Reserve with contributions from the Volunteer Firefighters Association, and said the truck would have a host of potential benefits.
Director of Corporate and Development Services Jeff Long told councillors “There’s a slew of rationale for it. It looks like a fairly good deal.”
The council agreed to approve the purchase provided the PHVFA passed a resolution to cover the total cost. Council would then accept the cost of the vehicle’s maintenance.
With the BC Salmon Farmers Association’s AGM slated for Port Hardy later this month, Mary Ellen Waring, the association’s Executive Director, wrote to council asking that it agree to continue its annual sponsorship of the event.
With the exception of 2008, the council has been a sponsor since 2005.
Council agreed to continue its bronze-level donation to the event, at the rate of $1,000.