|Northern Health's Julia Pemberton carried the bulk of Monday|
nights Conversation on Health Care in Prince Rupert, providing
for a wide ranging overview of the state of care in the community
(image from MLA Rice's FB feed)
Monday night's Town Hall Conversation on Health Care hosted by MLA Jennifer Rice provided a snapshot of where we are at the moment for the community, with Ms. Rice's guests on the evening charting the travels of health care through COVID and addressing a range of concerns for a small but energized audience at the Lester Centre.
The evening was divided into two segments, the first started with some storytelling and a greeting from Tsimshian elder Murray Smith who then turned the microphone back to Ms. Rice who introduced the first speaker on the night, Julia Pemberton from Northern Health.
The Northern Health administrator carried the bulk of the information sharing and provided for an extensive overview of the recent transit through the challenges of COVID and took on a number of themes that have gained some traction in the community in recent months.
Ms. Pemberton's presentation though the evening included some stories of service from staffers at Northern Health which paid tribute to the work of those at the hospital and. in the health care professions in the community.
Her observations noting of a collective which is working hard despite many challenges that face the community when it comes to providing for services, with notes relayed on recruiting themes and how housing is proving to be a major concern towards attracting health care professionals to the North Coast.
"The people who are left standing in our health care system today have done the hardest work of their careers and the hardest work in the latest history in Health care.
And Im so grateful for every single of them who continue to come to work, who continue to advocate for their staff, but also for their people and their patients and their clients.
And I don't know what our future holds, I have some plans and I do think that there is hope on the horizon. But I just want to start by really thanking the community for their patience, in what the last two and a half years has meant.
It's meant that sometimes we haven't been able to provide service at a level that we used to and it still means that in some cases.
I'm just fiercely proud and protective of the people who continue to stand with Northern Health and continue to come to work every day and serve us. They don't need to work for us, they don't need to work here, it's a market where they can pick up jobs anywhere in the province and anywhere in the country.
So the fact that they continue to choose Prince Rupert as their home and Northern health as their employer makes me extremely proud of each and every one of them"
Among the themes of attraction of staff, the Health administrator observed as to how Northern Health had lost a potential of 18 recruits for health care in the region owing to the housing situation in the community.
A new initiative on housing has assisted in addressing some of those challenges, though the additional issue of daycare services has been a recurring theme for would be recruits.
Of note of her compassion and pride for the staff of Northern Health and the challenges they have faced she observed how Health care in the region has been working with fifty percent less staff than before COVID, with the staffing levels a priority for Northern Health and the numbers starting to build up again, partially owing to some provincial funding to attract and retain staff members in the region.
"To put this in perspective, currently right now, it varies on departments but overall in all of my centres I"m dealing with an average of fifty percent staff less staff than I had before the pandemic started and we're trying to deliver almost the same level of service. So this puts incredible strain on ever single person because their constantly asked to do more with less"
The night at the Lester Centre served as a welcome update to a presentation to City Council in 2021 and Ms. Pemberton could point to some success when it comes to the recruitment of Physicians and Specialists since the 2021 review.
The Northern Health Administrator also outlined the continues success in expanding the mPCT program which adds to the health care options for the Prince Rupert area
Ms. Pemberton also provided some details on the work ongoing to try to address the some 3,500 residents in the community who currently do not have a family physician.
"What we're doing to close that gap, is we have our next GP who is going to have a practice will join us in early 2023 ... our Primary Care Network which is a five year plan to expand primary care in our community.
Towards surgical services Ms. Pemberton noted that all three Prince Rupert Operating Rooms are in constant operation, observing that even with the much discussed Mills Memorial Build, that the capacity for Operating Room services at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital will still be close to par with the larger Terrace hospital.
Fears of the Expanded Mills facility did dominate much of the night's conversation, both in the presentation period and in the follow up Question and Answer segment.
The Northern Health officials acknowledging that while it is a concern for local residents, the creation of a trauma centre in Terrace should be considered a positive thing for the entire region, reducing the need for travel farther away should the situation arise.
The main focus for Northern health on the Mills Build is that the Region is gaining and Prince Rupert is not losing as a result of the introduction of a trauma centre as part of the new hospital build.
Some of the other key elements discussed on the evening included frustrations when it comes to some of the services provided for the community, particularly with the lab work which as Ms. Pemberton noted came as a result of a significant fire at the hospital.
For those frustrations the Health Administrator offered up an apology to the community, noting that the staff continue to work towards a more streamline process that will reduce some of the often heard concerns over those elements of the hospital experience.
The lab improvements come following a 7 million dollar renovation required as a result of the fire which should make the Prince Rupert lab one of the more modern facilities in the Northern health region.
Some of the other areas addressed in the near forty five minute presentation included a review of some of the successful themes for Seniors Care at Acropolis Manor, Hone Care supports in the community and areas of improvement ahead for Maternity care.
The North Coast MLA added her perspective to the overview on the night by recounting the success of the community efforts during COVID and the roll out of the mass vaccination clinic and how it showcased the spirit of a community of caring,
Ms. Rice also paid tribute to the health care workers in the community, noting that they are tired and have continued to serve the community during a very challenging period.
The MLA also declared that the Hospital is not going to be turned into a clinic, hinting of some additional investment for local facilities to come in the near future.
The second presentation on the evening provided a welcome tutorial on the current situation for the BC Ambulance Service in the community, with the Terrace based regional head of the service Tom Soames (who it was noted wanted to live in Prince Rupert but couldn't access housing) outlined the current status of the Prince Rupert Station.
He also outlined a training program set to get underway in Prince Rupert through Hecate Strait Business Development Society that will provide for additional EHS resources upon completion of their studies.