The verdict from the North Island was loud and clear last weekend: their voices have been ignored for too long.
A health-care rally on Saturday, March 11, drew hundreds of frustrated residents from all over northern Vancouver Island to Port McNeill.
The rally was organized by Port McNeill resident Fran Jenkins and her team of supporters, and she said she was thrilled by the amount of people who showed up to speak out.
Jenkins said she was inspired to start the rally because of stories she’d been hearing about Island Healthfrom across the North Island.
“The harder we dug and found more stories, with no explanations and no direct corrections coming so things didn’t happen again, I felt we needed to get together as a group with one voice to be heard,” she said.
“We’re not here bashing Island Health. I want to come out of this with something that we can take to Island Health that’s going to be productive. Lets make this work again.”
The region’s health-care crisis is no secret.
Port McNeill Hospital was the first to suffer emergency room closures due to staff shortages. The situation stabilized enough to reopen 24/7 service again, but then similar situations emerged in Port Hardy and Cormorant Island, forcing those hospitals to shut down overnight services indefinitely in a situation that continues.
Longtime Port McNeill doctor Prean Armogam was sitting front row at the rally. Armogam was the only physician in the region who attended the rally in person, saying that’s because he’s one of the few who isn’t “under the thumb of the health authority.”
“I think people have been duped for far too long, and I think frontline staff have been muzzled.”
Action taken to strengthen North Vancouver Island health care
Island Health issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday (March 14), explaining how the organization and its partners have made significant progress to improve and stabilize health-care services for the North Island region.
“North Vancouver Island residents are quickly benefiting from Island Health’s improvements, especially by attracting and recruiting health-care professionals from across the province, country and beyond,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
Island Health has hired new staff to support the health system in the North Island and anticipates delivering over $280,000 in quarterly retention bonuses to more than 200 employees in the first quarter of the program, with eligible staff already receiving enhanced travel compensation.
“The $30 million investment will help to bring more stability and improved health care for the communities,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island.
With the purchasing of a new CT scanner well under way, local residents will benefit from drastically reduced travel times to access the health services they need.
“We have established a task force that includes leaders from multiple teams whose focus is to ensure our patients and care providers realize the benefits of these investments as quickly as possible. I’m proud of what the team has accomplished already” said James Hanson, Island Health Vice-President, Central/North Island clinical operations.
Island Health has added two additional long-term care beds at Eagle Ridge Manor and increased services and residential capacity in the Port Hardy community by 10 per cent to better support seniors requiring long-term care. Action has been taken to expand sobering, assessment and sheltering services currently offered by the Salvation Army, an Island Health contracted services provider.
The health authority says that as a result of its recruiting efforts, 18 candidates have accepted job offers in the North Vancouver Island region, including two nurses who have chosen to relocate from outside the North Vancouver Island region and will be starting work in the coming weeks.
A quick breakdown, according to Island Health:
- Three Registered Nurses/Registered Psychiatric Nurses hired (currently engaged and working 12 qualified candidates through recruitment and selection process, including five in the interview stage);
- One Licensed Practical Nurse hired and two in the interview stage;
- One community professional hired into home care and public health (Five qualified candidates in the interview and offer stages);
- Seven support staff hired (includes ambassadors, nursing assistants and health care support workers);
- One Protection Services Officer hired (currently engaged and working four candidates through recruitment and selection process including one in the offer stage); and
- Two full time and two casual Inter-facility Porters for dedicated shuttle service hired (offers extended for two additional positions).
- with file from Island Health