The latest chapter on the Island Health changes being implemented for Port Alice from the community’s perspective:

A recent editorial on the Port Alice Health Centre

This is a long read from the Port Alice News and Views, Facebook, January 27, 2018

DOn February 21, 2015, the Neucel Mill in Port Alice went into “curtailment” which will have lasted 4 years next month. As the mill was the largest employer in Port Alice – in fact one of the largest employers in Mount Waddington District – the ramifications for the village have been enormous. Many residents left the community to seek employment elsewhere and a number of businesses either closed or reduced their services.

In May of 2016 the Canada wide census showed that Port Alice had a population of 664. Since that time Port Alice has been undergoing a significant population explosion. Many retirees have taken advantage of the very affordable housing situation and have purchased homes here. In addition a number of people on assistance have rented homes in Port Alice.

The demographics have changed considerably and have resulted in changing health care needs for the community While the seniors who are moving here are active couples or singles attracted by the opportunities for outdoor recreation in the area, they bring with them an increased need for continued local health care. Some of the new renters also bring with them significant mental and physical health care issues. Since the next Canada census will not be conducted until 2021, any decision regarding health services in Port Alice based on the 2016 census will not reflect current and future needs.

On June 5, 2017, representatives of the Mount Waddington Collaborative Working Group, Novatone Consulting and Genesis Inc. hosted an event in Port Alice. The stated purpose of this event was to “learn who makes up our community, what health services are used and to identify any gaps in service. It was not advertised as an exercise to determine if a REDUCTION to the services provided by the Health Centre is merited. At no time was the community advised that this event was critical to the continued operation of our Health Centre under the current level of service. The meeting was held in the afternoon of a working day, eliminating the possibility of those residents who hold jobs attending. Eleven people attended the meeting and filled out the questionnaires without being informed that the ultimate goal of the exercise was to rationalize a severe reduction in health care services to the people of Port Alice.

On September the 5th, 2018, Allison Mitchell, Director Mount Waddington/Strathcona, Dermott Kelly, Executive Director, Geography (Island Health) met with then Mayor Jan Allen, Bonnie Danyk, Acting CAO for the Village of Port Alice, and Valerie Eyford, Chair of the Port Alice Health Forum to discuss proposed changes to the Port Alice Health Centre following the resignation of Dr. Dana Hubler, who had been serving the community in a .6 FTE (full time equivilent) position and the impending retirement of one of our two nurses, the other nurse being on maternity leave until June 1 of 2019. Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Kelly informed those in attendance the the .6 FTE doctor’s position would be filled by locums while Island Health evaluated the community’s needs. The nursing positions have not been filled and we have been told that there are no applicants.

On the 14th of January, 2019, Allison Mitchell and Dermott Kelly met with Village Council members and a representative of the Port Alice Health Forum to present the conclusions of the Novatone Consulting Group’s report. Attendees were informed that a model had been chosen for the restructuring of health services in Mount Waddington District, a model that would be adopted in three stages. The end result for Port Alice would be a severe reduction in services to Port Alice. Our Health Centre, currently operating as a Critical Care Centre, would become a “Patient Medical Home”, although exactly what that means was not addressed. When asked if these proposed changes were “carved in stone”, Allison Mitchell replied in the affirmative.

The changes proposed for the Port Alice Health Centre are devastating. Rather than two doctors (one .8 FTE and one .6 FTE) Port Alice will have a doctor only 4 days a week. One of the nursing positions will be eliminated and there will be no after hours or weekend service.

Dr. Ian MacKenzie has been coming to Port Alice for close to 15 years. He owns a home here, is an active community member who belongs to the Yacht Club and Fish and Wildlife Association. He knows this community and its people, is well-liked and has served us very well. Will he continue to serve Port Alice if his position is reduced to that of a “part-timer”? If he does not, what doctor would be enticed to move to Port Alice for such a limited practice? The same question must be asked regarding nurses in the community. Why would a nurse stay here, or relocate here, without a full-time position?

By reducing these FTE positions there is a very real possibility that we will be left without any doctor or nurse at a time when Port Alice is actually growing in population. It has been suggested by Island Health that Port Alice currently has more health services than the population warrants, but, again, it must be stressed that the 2016 census statistics are not an accurate reflection of Port Alice today or in the near future.

The tactics Island Health has used throughout this process have been deceptive. Input from Port Alice residents and stakeholders was restricted by the nature of the “community engagement” methods. The stated purpose of the review of services was NOT the actual purpose, which was a REDUCTION in services, not improvement.

We need to turn up in force at the next public information session and make our views known loud and clear!

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