PORT McNEILL—Work progresses toward a comprehensive health-care model for the North Island, council was told in a presentation last week by Alison Mitchell and Dr. Rick Scragg, co-chairs of the Mount Waddington Health Services Stabilization Working Group.
Mitchell and Scragg, who made a similar presentation the following day to the Regional District of Mount Waddington Board of Directors, brought council up to date on the efforts of the working group to recruit and retain physicians, create multi-disciplinary teams including nurse practitioners and nurses for local clinics, educate the public and establish a long-range, regional-level plan to provide comprehensive health care in the region.
The need for the working group’s efforts, which began with its formation more than a year ago, was highlighted a few days later when Vancouver Island Health Authority announced the closure of the emergency room at Port Hardy Hospital Thursday and Friday due to a physician shortage.
“VIHA has provided funding to recruit doctors to Port Hardy, to increase the coverage of the ER there,” said Scragg, who works in Port McNeill Medical Clinic and provides ER coverage at Port McNeill Hospital. “Whether that’s sustainable is questionable, because it’s costing VIHA a ton of money.”
“Right now they’re doing it mostly by using locums,” Mitchell clarified, citing the temporary physicians brought in to cover gaps in service.
VIHA, based partly on recommendations by the local working group, has identified the need for comprehensive health centres on the North Island, staffed by a mix of physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses, Mitchell and Scragg said. Eventually, these “integrated primary care” clinics could come to include a range of service providers like pharmaceutical, physical therapy and mental health and addictions.
“The first centre to be built or housed would be in Port Hardy, because that’s the community where the greatest need has been identified,” said Mitchell.
Scragg said enticing new doctors to the area may be dependent on establishing the integrated model.
“These new physicians coming out of school now want to work on teams, and they want a salary, not the fee-for-service model (of pay),” he said. “To get that, you need to have the team, and you need to have the building.”
Ferry consult lacking
Mayor Gerry Furney indicated to council he had drafted a letter of protest to BC Ferries for its failure to include Port McNeill as a stop on its 30-community consultation process tour of Vancouver Island. The consultations are designed to gather input from communities potentially affected by the corporation’s plan to find $26 million in savings by 2016.
“I have sent a protest to them,” Furney told council, which was in full agreement and agreed to sign such a letter. “It’s just not right, the way they’ve gone about this.”