Fair Care Alliance demands better health-care facilities for Nanaimo

Fair Care Alliance demands better health-care facilities for Nanaimo
Photo: Kendall Hanson/CHEK News

A relatively new advocacy group in Nanaimo, the Fair Care Alliance, held its first news conference Wednesday, demanding better health-care facilities.

It follows the recent launch of a media campaign that includes two billboards near Nanoose Bay and in the Cowichan Valley, an advocacy video on social media, and an online petition.

They say Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) urgently needs a new catheterization lab for heart procedures and a new patient tower.

It’s also trying to mobilize people who live on central and north Vancouver Island to help pressure the province to deliver.

“Where closets and storage areas are used for patient care, where patients are crowded in spaces converted as nightingale wards. Those are open rooms reminiscent of the early 20th century. These spaces have no privacy,” said Dr. David Forrest, an infectious disease and critical care specialist at NRGH.

“We lack a modern hospital to provide safe care in. This is a human dignity issue,” said David Coupland, radiologist and president of NRGH’s Medical Staff Association.

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NRGH doctors say the best practices for treating heart attacks have been known for 20 years, but on the Island, it’s only offered in Victoria, leading to sub-optimal outcomes, sometimes even death.

“Why do patients then get exclusive access to primary PCI while the majority of us on the Island receive the less effective, riskier clot buster that was first developed in the 1970s?” said Dr. Neil Swartz, a former NRGH head of internal medicine and a Fair Care Alliance spokesperson.

They say NRGH, based on its proximity to the Island’s population, should get the second catheterization lab. Two reviews even called for one as far back as 2006. On top of that, there are only two cardiologists working north of Victoria.

“This is a shockingly low number and probably one of the worst in the country,” said Swartz, referring to the per capita coverage.

One doctor says that several years ago, she ordered one of her heart attack patients a clot buster, her best option in Nanaimo, before learning it wasn’t working.

“Informed that this patient was dying because they bled in the brain, which never should’ve happened,” said Dr. Jodie Turner of the NRGH emergency physician team.

Sadly, the patient ended up dying.

“…and I met with the family, and I apologized, and I told them that I would do everything I could to make sure that we would do better,” said Turner.

In a statement, Island Health says it recognizes the need to invest in and improve services in all regions. The alliance hopes its campaign, leading up to the next provincial election, will speed up that process as it pushes the province for better health care north of the Malahat.

“We’re building a new hospital in Cowichan. We’re building a new cancer centre in Nanaimo,” said Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister, as he pointed out other health spending on the Island north of the Malahat by the NDP government.

“We know we have to do more, and that’s why we’re recruiting more health-care workers everywhere, including here, to ensure people get the care that they need.”

The Fair Care Alliance formed earlier this year is asking concerned residents to contact their MLA.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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