OPINION: Island Health is attempting to mislead the public

Bjarnason’s statement makes it sound like the emergency room will remain.

Island Health is attempting to make the public falsely believe that the emergency room at the Port Alice health centre will be remaining. In spite of statements that seem to suggest something different, they are still intending to remove it.

At the meeting between Island Health and the residents of Port Alice at the Port Alice Community Centre on February 20th, residents were irate about the potential loss of emergency care that will put lives at risk.

In response to the meeting, Elin Bjarnason, Vice President of Island Health’s Clinical Service Delivery, wrote mayor Kevin Cameron and members of the Health Forum on April 2 stating that “the urgent care room will remain.” This is essentially a lie. The “urgent care room” cannot “remain” if it doesn’t even exist yet. What is at the health centre, at the moment, is an emergency room.

Her statement makes it sound like the emergency room will remain. Most people would consider “urgent care” and “emergency care” to be synonymous. If you read Island Health’s own literature, however, they are totally different.

“Urgent care” deals with issues like sprains and strains, urinary tract infections, moderate asthma symptoms, cuts or wounds, minor injuries, moderate backaches, abdominal pain and migraines.

“Emergency care” includes difficulty breathing, broken bones, chest pains, serious burns and babies that are hard to rouse.

Once an urgent care room is implemented, patients with life-threatening issues will be transported by ambulance services to the nearest suitable hospital that could be anywhere from 45 minutes to 7 hours away. Patients will no longer be evaluated and stabilized at an emergency room in Port Alice before transport. One does not need a medical degree to realize that lives will be unnecessarily lost because of this.

Dr. Bjarnason knows the difference between urgent and emergency care, but she’s hoping most people don’t. She is attempting to make the emergency room fade from existence by giving it a new name with a very different purpose and then saying it will stay. It might make people remain quiet long enough for Island Health to make the transition, while possibly circumventing an ugly Port Alice protest—of mostly elderly people—getting on the evening news.

What is so unsettling about all this is that Island Health is going to such great lengths to fool people. Is there more to this issue than meets the eye? One wonders how Dr. Bjarnason and her colleagues—being members of the medical profession—are not suffering a serious “crisis of conscience” over this?

In case Island Health still does not understand what Port Alice residents want, it is this: for the emergency room equipment to remain (all of it), and for Island Health to implement 24/7 on call staffing to sustain it.

Why? Because we Port Alice residents don’t want to die by circumstance! Because we don’t want to be thrown back to “horse and buggy days” when many people died before they could get to medical help. Because we don’t want to have to rename “The Frigon Road” the “Highway of Death”!

Maybe our souls go to a better place after they leave planet Earth; but, personally, I’d like to stay alive as long as current medical advancements will allow. I do not want to be disqualified from that benefit of modern living simply because I happen to Iive in Port Alice!

– Debra Lynn is a writer, artist and educator who lives in Port Alice

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