The Mount Waddington Health Network Forum, held at the Civic Centre in Port Hardy Nov. 5, provided an opportunity to exchange ideas, but not in a benign way. Dynamism is in the air as people risk the status quo to pursue a better quality of life for those living in the region. The event builds on a similar forum spearheaded by Bev Parnham and others two years ago, to assess and address health-related issues.
The Health Network’s mandate is to provide a venue for cross-fertilization of ideas that promote health initiatives responsive to local needs. The Forum served that purpose well. Discussion centred on access to services, including transportation, tele-health, and primary health care.
Novel ideas around health service delivery include whether keeping all hospitals staffed 24/7 makes sense. What does it mean to deliver services regionally? An up-to-date assessment of what is being delivered and what gaps still exist made the discussions relevant and useful. Initiatives to support better access were discussed and those in attendance provided feedback on what they feel is working and not working in each area.
Mount Waddington needs to regard itself as one community in order to streamline services and be cost effective, in terms of dollars, and in terms of medical practitioners, who are being stretched in a way that is not sustainable. This is the view of some who are working on the front lines, and the forum allowed these ideas to come forward and advance the discussion of people who live here.
The mix of those attending included the newly-appointed BC Seniors Advocate, Isobel MacKenzie, whose mandate is to work independently of government to gather information about how seniors’ health and housing needs are being met, and to make recommendations that will allow service delivery models to enhance quality of life for seniors. MacKenzie thinks in terms of equity in province-wide systems, and the dialogue gave her an opportunity to understand what is unique about the North island. She sees a great disparity in services, such as how home care is delivered in Victoria, where she lives, compared to deliver in this region.
Others in attendance included Patti Murphy from the Division of Family Practice, April Struthers, who has worked with the Community Response Network in the Region, Jody Olsson, from the provincial Better at Homes program office, Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns, Dr. David Whittaker, First Nations reps from the Kwakiutl, ‘Namgis and Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations, residents of Port Alice, Alert Bay, and Sointula, who work and volunteer to address social determinants of health, the Port Hardy and Port McNeill Hospital Auxiliary Societies, Port Alice Health Forum, Island Health, local government, naturopathic services, local churches, social service organizations, and Regional Transit, in other words, a broad cross-section of people.
A summary report from the panel and from the World Café breakout discussion groups will be produced in the coming weeks and posted on the Mount Waddington Health Network web site; www.mountwaddingtonhealthnetwork.com, along with pictures from the day.
Thanks to all those who contributed to the Mount Waddington Health Network forum and the seniors advocate tour of the area.
Barb Park is coordinator of the Mount Waddington Health Network, which advocates for North Islanders across a spectrum of health and social services issues. firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-230-1238.