Health-care workers raise cardiac care inequity on Vancouver Island

Health-care workers raise cardiac care inequity on Vancouver Island

A group of health-care workers and politicians in Nanaimo are sounding the alarm about a lack of cardiac services for central and north Vancouver Island.

They say Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is in dire need of a catheterization lab, arguing it’s the largest region in the country without the critical service.

“Today we’re here to talk about the cold hard truth and that’s as Canadian citizens, we’re all entitled to equal and equitable health care and that does not exist for central and north Vancouver Island,” said Donna Hais, who was the emcee for a media news conference in Nanaimo Tuesday.

It centred around the lack of cardiac services offered at the hospital, which serves a population of 450,000 people on central and northern Vancouver Island.

“From Mill Bay north is the largest area in Canada, in the entire country without a cardiac cath lab. That is hard to believe, and it is quite frankly astounding,” said Ian Thorpe, Chair of the Nanaimo Hospital District Board.

“It’s larger than the South Island, we’re older, we’re growing faster, and we have a greater burden of all types of cardiac disease,” said Dr. David Coupland, President of the Medical Staff at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Nanaimo’s hospital has one cardiologist with a second en route, few cardiac services, and no catheterization lab, also called a cath lab.

“Access to a cath lab is a standard of care for heart attacks, and for a big heart attack, access and opening of the blocked arteries needs to occur within 90 minutes. This rarely happens for patients on central/north island,” said Coupland.

Coupland says the result is more people dying, poorer health outcomes and increased costs to the patients and the system.

“Verus South Island, which has 21 to 22 cardiologists, two cardiac cath labs, all cardiac services and cardiac surgery. The inequity is obvious.”

The city’s mayor is urging the B.C. government to find funding for a cath lab in Nanaimo.

“If you can announce a cath lab in Surrey, announce one here. It’s the right thing to do. It’s good politics, as I remind everyone when I’m talking to people on all kinds of issues we’re faced with a provincial election in 14 months,” said Leonard Krog.

Snuneymuxw First Nation’s Chief Michael Wyse underwent a heart valve replacement in Victoria a year ago.

“It was tough being away from home and finding that support from my family to be down there, and while I got through this, if we had that service here in Nanaimo, it would make life a lot easier.”

If the B.C. government approved funding for a cath lab in Nanaimo tomorrow, it’s expected to become a reality it would still take three to five years.

In a statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix said he was recently in Nanaimo and discussed cardiac services.

“Cardiac Services BC is actively working with Island Health in its role to support planning, which involves health human resources, building and equipment requirements, and other needs/criteria.”

Dix also said in December 2022, “NRGH expanded the Heart Function Clinic to a space across the street, essentially doubling the patient volumes seen within the comprehensive clinic, and supporting patients in the community for longer.”

It also said, “NRGH has the ability to perform a number of cardiac diagnostic procedures, while the Royal Jubilee Hospital is the designated cardiac care center for the Island where specialized treatment, procedures and equipment are available.”

Earlier this summer, the B.C. government was on hand for a tour of a new intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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