Medical association calls for services expansion at Nanaimo’s hospital

WatchAssociation president says considering Vancouver Island demographics many more hospital services should be offered in Nanaimo.

Nanaimo’s Medical Staff Association is calling on the provincial government to fund new services for Nanaimo’s hospital.

Its president says the central and north Island are vastly underserved for medical services, and ailing patients could pay the price.

At 8 a.m. in the morning Tuesday, Nanoose Bay resident John Heath was waiting in Nanaimo for his daily ride to Victoria. He was heading to his radiation and chemo treatment.

“It’s about two-and-a-half hours so you end up with about five hours of driving out of your day plus two hours while you are there,” said Heath.

During his six weeks of treatments, he’s been relying on the Freemason’s Cancer Car Program.

“I think it’s just great,” said Heath.

The charity takes patients to and from cancer appointments.

“Last year, we carried 3,700 passengers up and down to Victoria most often and we put on 233,000 kilometres,” said Colin Craig, coordinator of the Freemason Cancer Car Program.

But some Nanaimo doctors say people shouldn’t have to go to Victoria for health care.

They say the province should fund radiation and a host of other medical services at Nanaimo’s hospital.

“It’s based on medical need, population growth and demographics,” said Dr. David Coupland, president of the Nanaimo Medical Staff Association.

“I’m mean there are more people living north of the Malahat now than there are south. We’re older. We’re the oldest population on the central Island. We’re growing faster than the south Island and we have the busiest emergency on the Island by far.”

In 2017, Island Health and hospital stakeholders identified Nanaimo’s hospital as needing specialized services for patients with serious health challenges, including cancer, heart disease and kidney disease.

It also needs more critical care beds.

“Victoria has 39 and that’s not their fault this has happened. I’m not saying that but we have nine and they have 39 and overall Vancouver Island has the least critical care beds per capita in Canada so you can imagine how strapped we are up island,” said Coupland.

Heath says it would make a world of difference if he could get his cancer treatments in Nanaimo.

“I would jump up with joy and dance. That’s how much it would mean to me.”

Nanaimo’s Regional Hospital District board voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon for Regional District of Nanaimo staff to work with Island Health to determine the costs to tax payers for the extra services.

The BC Government and Island Health are currently adding a second MRI at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital that’s scheduled to be operational by April.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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