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Province takes action to stabilize northern Vancouver Island health-care services

January 27, 2023 at 1:22 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Significant efforts are underway to stabilize and improve access to reliable health-care services, including emergency care, in Port Hardy and the Mount Waddington region.

“We are committed to improving access to health care with significant investments across northern Vancouver Island,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Staffing shortages and challenges on the North Island have created uncertainty. The new efforts launching today will bring certainty for emergency-care services for people living in the communities of Port Hardy, on Cormorant Island, in Port McNeill and in the surrounding region.”

Emergency department services will be available from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. in Port Hardy, from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Cormorant Island, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Port McNeill. Regular hours will be restored as soon as possible. In the interim, these hours will allow patients and families to know where and when emergency services are available.

“We have heard the community loud and clear. People need to know when services are available and when they are not,” said Kathy MacNeil, president and CEO, Island Health. “To prevent unexpected closures, Island Health is temporarily suspending overnight emergency department services in Port Hardy and on Cormorant Island while our new measures come into place. We will resume regular hours as soon as possible, and work to immediately accelerate efforts to expand services and strengthen staffing throughout the region.”

Stabilizing and supporting staffing throughout northern Vancouver Island is key to health-care access. This includes enhancing staff recruitment and retention incentives for eligible staff with travel-wage increases, upgraded accommodations for travelling staff, and more protection-service officers to improve safety and site support. 

Island Health will establish daily shuttle services between Port Hardy and Port McNeill hospitals, as well as daily shuttles to Campbell River and the Comox Valley for patients and staff.

Island Health will also add new 24/7 mental-health and substance-use services, such as additional sobering and assessment centre beds to increase access to supportive care and reduce emergency department admissions. Similarly, additional long-term care beds are being established in Port Hardy to improve patient flow at the hospital.

“I have heard from many people in my constituency about the critical need for more health-care access in Port Hardy and surrounding areas,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island. “In response, our government is taking a multi-pronged approach to build out capacity, strengthen the workforce, and upgrade the facilities in the region. This is important news for our communities. The actions announced today not only address our immediate challenges, but also go further and will pave the way to modernizing and improving health care for North Island residents for years to come.”

In the coming months, Island Health will commence expansions to computed tomography (CT) diagnostic services, upgrades to the Port Hardy and Port McNeill hospitals, and make expansions to home-health and home-support services, as well as mental-health and substance-use services throughout the region.

These initiatives will be funded with approximately $30 million in one-time capital and ongoing operating funding provided by the Ministry of Health.

“These changes are a first and significant step to ensure reliable access to care, while the Ministry of Health works with Island Health on the many other actions underway to address health-care staffing challenges in the region,” Dix said.

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