‘We continue to be invisible’: North Island rally calls for better health care

'We continue to be invisible': North Island rally calls for better health care

Three hundred people and a rising temperature filled a local school gymnasium Saturday as unhappy North Island citizens vented about the state of local health care.

“I’ve been here for 63 years,” said one woman. “My family developed Port Hardy and if they were still alive now, they would be throwing up because the government is supposed to work for us, not the other way around.”

Over the last year, the hospital ER in Port Hardy had seen regular overnight closures due to a lack of doctors.

Port McNeill and Cormorant Island have also seen major problems keeping the hospitals staffed.

Whether it is a lack of nurses or doctors residents say they’re not being listened to.

“Port Hardy will soon have one Island Health physician. It’s not adequate, it’s not reasonable, it’s not sustainable and Island Health keeps telling us they’re working on it,” said rally organizer Frank Jenkins. “We would like more information, this ‘we’re working on it’ isn’t quite enough.”

Dr. Prean Armogam has worked in Port McNeill for 17 years and covers Sointula. He has been outspoken in recent years about how the Province and Island Health should do things differently.

“The biggest issue is that we’ve been invisible as a region,” he said. We continue to be invisible, the public are duped, the staff are muzzled and nobody listens to us.”

However, just over a month ago, the Ministry of Health and Island Health announced a $30 million investment in health care on the north island aimed at helping communities facing unpredictable hospital closures due to staffing shortages.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said with these changes, 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

Money will also be spent on modernizing Port Hardy and Port McNeill Hospitals with capital investments, improving home health support with a mobile CT Diagnostic Service and enhancing recruiting incentives, retention and wage supplements for workers.

“But the question is when and where? There’s no timeline on any of this stuff,” added Jenkins, a resident from the region.

Jenkins said the next move will be to advance their calls for change with more specifics.

“If we understand what the problems are and not in a general sense but in a detailed sense then perhaps we could work through those problems and find solutions,” said Sointula resident Margot Levy who attended the rally.

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

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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