B.C. announces $30 million for North Island health-care services

B.C. announces $30 million for North Island health-care services

The province will invest $30 million into health care for the North Island to help the communities facing unpredictable hospital closures due to staffing shortages.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix made the announcement, focusing on keeping hospital emergency rooms and other health care services open on a regular, consistent basis.

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With these changes, Dix said the North Island hospitals will operate on a consistent schedule:

  • Port McNeill will have emergency services available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Port Hardy will have emergency services available, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week
  • Cormorant Island will have emergency services available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week

“These actions will make a difference, bring relief and assurance, and help us meet the needs of the patients we serve,” said Kathy MacNeil, CEO of Island Health.

RELATED: Doctor travels to Port Hardy to keep ER open, department closes anyway due to lack of nurses

Other overhauls the government will be investing in for the North Island include:

  • Modernizing Port Hardy and Port McNeill Hospitals with capital investments
  • Improving home health support with a mobile CT Diagnostic Service that will axe the six-hour round trip Port Hardy and Port McNeill patients currently face when travelling to Campbell River
  • Enhancing recruiting incentives, retention and wage supplements for workers

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She says the need for reliable and predictable delivery of emergency services is paramount, and that these initiatives are over a million dollars worth of investment.

“We’ve heard from our staff – these will make a difference,” MacNeil said.

Dix and MacNeil both acknowledged that ongoing, near-nightly overnight closures of ERs in the Port Hardy area, which has negatively impacted requiring care. The minister pledged that the $30 million earmarked for improving services will help stabilize the situation in the immediate term.

“Returning to regular hours, 24/7 hours is the goal,” he said.

“In the interim, these set hours will ensure patients and families know where and when emergency services are available to them.”

Pat Corbett-Labatt, mayor of Port Hardy, says the announcement makes her hopeful.

“We’re so appreciative it’ll help Island Health stabilize and hopefully get more doctors,” she said.

Dr. Alex Nataros, a doctor in Port Hardy, says it’s a good start, but he hopes to see continued movement to help solve the issue.

“I think it provides some stability to our community when we’ve been in crisis mode, so that’s a good first step,” Nataros said. “There’s talk of a portable CT scanner which also sounds reasonable, but it’s kind of like ordering more planes without the pilots.”

RELATED: Doctor shortage in Port Hardy leads to overnight ER closures 28 times in October


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