Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Councillor Nick Adey wants the City of Prince Rupert and community stakeholders to take the lead towards addressing range of health care issues for Prince Rupert

Much of Monday's City Council Council session turned into a Council Forum on the state of Health care in Prince Rupert, with three of the city's six council Members and Mayor Herb Pond speaking to the challenges for hospital staff and fears for reduced services from community residents.

The topic was introduced by Councillor Nick Adey, who shared some of his own experiences with health care in the community, while put the spotlight on the professionalism and challenges that Health Care providers and hospital staff have to deal with. 

Among the  areas of concern noting of staffing issues, concerns over burnout of existing staff and the recent addition of Security, something he noted was not required previously.

"The work that is done there, is very difficult and it becomes even more difficult given the emotional  intensity of people's circumstances as they experience what goes on there. There have been challenges in terms of staffing and when staff is short there's a risk of burnout and that's what leads to some of the concerns around possible closures.

And the other piece of that just in the last couple of years we've seen a need emerge for an actual in house security service in there as well, it didn't use to be that way and now it's that way

And those are all part of the pressures that people in that environment are working under so I want to acknowledge that. That those efforts although they're largely unseen by people in regular walk of life they're very important and very much appreciated " -- Councillor Nick Adey

Towards the main thrust of his commentary for the night he observed of issues of potential Emergency Department Closures, the length of wait times for services and the concerns raised previously by Councillor Cunningham on the impact of the new Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace on services in this community.  

As for how to address those issues, the Councillor proposed that the City take a larger leadership role in the work required towards recruitment, retention and advocacy for health care in the community.

He spoke of the challenges towards recruitment and how the community could recruit doctors and support staff.  Noting of the shortage of family doctors and other medical shortages. 

That was a timely reference for the community,  that as one clinic in town is currently advising patients of the pending departure of a local GP, with rumours percolating of others that may be considering same.

"Some of the issues do have a connection to the community at large though, when we talk about not having access to a family doctor, or potential closures in hospital services, That's about Human Resources and therefore recruitment.  

So I think there's a need to feel confident that the Emergency Room is staffed, I think there's some conversation around permanent positions attached to the Emergency Room that would ease some of those pressures.

But also recruiting new General Practitioners, the more General Practitioners we have working in the community, the fewer people need to go to the Emergency Room and therefore create some of the pressures there" -- Councillor Nick Adey

He also suggested that Council had a role to play in highlighting public awareness of what the Emergency Room is for and ways which the choices of the public can make it work better or offer larger challenges.

The Councillor asked for the City to consider establishing a dialogue that brings together a lare number of stakeholders.

"The recruitment of medical professionals is in the interest of more than just people in the medical system. It's in the interest of industry, it's in the interest of the municipality, it's in the interest of Health Care providers in Northern Health Business, First Nations and the community at large.

All have a shared interest in ensuring that the recruitment of medical professionals is successful"  -- Councillor Nick Adey

He also pointed to the need to support ongoing efforts to educate the public regarding what the role of the Emergency Room is and what alternatives there are for the public who don't have Emergency needs, but still require medial advice.

Towards that, the councillor advocated that the city work to bring the groups together that he had mentioned towards finding some solutions to the challenges found in the community.

Mayor Pond suggested that the topic be made a Notice of Motion for Council, with further details to be worked out on how the City will approach the issue and create the instrument to bring the stakeholders together,  to come at their February 26th Council session.

Councillor Cunningham followed up on the topic with a few thoughts as well, first noting of our article from Monday on the current recruitment program at Mills Memorial Hospital.

He observed how he has been working on the health care file for years and has seen the challenges that are faced locally. Like Councillor Adey he had much praise for the Doctors, nurses and other staffers at the Hospital.

He too echoed the comments related to the need to address recruitment noting how some Doctors have passed on the city owing to a lack of Housing and Child Care to name a few.

Noting of the Mills Memorial recruitment, he too outlined how there is a need for a community approach to recruitment in Prince Rupert. 

"They've just built a six, seven hundred million dollar hospital, their emphasis on recruitment is going to be there. I"m hoping that they're not going to strip any other hospitals, but you know staff is free to go wherever they want to go.

But that being said, I think it's very, very  important we get involved in recruitment and like Councillor Adey says, all the stakeholders. Growth of our industries in this town will be retartded if we don't have the proper support for those industries.

Whether it's housing, 24 hour child care, there are so many other problems that have to be solved to get this. You know we've had doctors and nurses come here, they didn't stay simply because there wasn't 24 hour child care ...  some of the doctor's couldn't find houses.  These are some of the things, 

I really believe that we as a council have to get involved in recruitment in whatever way we can. To either  support Northern Health or go it alone and support our doctors to recruit other doctors"  -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

He also noted that until that Doctor patient ratio improves in Prince Rupert, the Emergency Department will still be used by residents as a Walk In clinic. Towards the need for additional doctors he outlined some of the current provincial initiatives including the recruitment of medical professionals from outside of Canada.

Mr. Cunningham also observed of the use of travelling health staff who come to town, agency nurses who work side by side with local nurses, but with the agency nurses making more money that the local nurses, which has an impact on morale.  The Councillor observing to  the complex situation at Northern Health and some of the mistrust between management and staff at the Health authority in the region.

"Northern Health, is Northern Health and I'll leave it at that ... But you know there's mistrust on both sides and I really think we've got to sort of blow through that mistrust and get people working together again.

And the grass root thing, is exactly what Councillor Adey is talking about. We can help and support in this Council room by bringing in the stakeholders and First Nations and that and getting them around this table and talking. And getting everyone involved in one goal, better medical care for our town" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

Councillor Teri Forster, who is a nurse in the community and was out of town related to her work, was cautious in her commentary not in how she's not supposed to dive too deep into the topic. 

She thanked council for their praise for all of the health care workers in the community and noted how while recruitment is important, retention is even more so.  

The councillor suggesting that retention be the key focus for the work ahead for the Council led group when it is created.

"I think that recruitment is important, but retention is more important. Because if we offer too many nice things to entice people through a carrot to come to our town. We're going to alienate people that are already working incredibly hard for us, every single day.

So when we draft that motion I strongly urge everyone to adding retention  as the key focus over recruitment" -- Coumcillor Teri Forster

She also suggested reviewing some of the work underway by the District of Kitimat Council which has had similar concerns and issues to address.
The councillor also reminded the public of the virtual care line that they offer that can address issues that may not require a visit to a doctor's office or the Emergency Room.

For the Mayor the discussion provided a chance to express gratefulness for all those who provide services in the community, particularly in Health Care.  
He like Councillor Adey recounted some of his past family experiences with the health care system in Prince Rupert and how everyone who works at the Hospital or in health care in the community are valuable and deserve the thanks of the community.

Mr. Pond  noted how Prince Rupert wants to build an exceptional community that attracts people to Canada's Asian Gateway and how the city was taking on the kind of role seen in much larger cities of the world.

"I think that there is a role for the community ... We want to build an exceptional community, that attracts people to Canada's critical Asian Gateway. 

We're 12,000 people, taking on a role that cities of millions take on.

If' we're going to bring people up to this North Coast we need to be exceptional.

We need to be exceptional in education, We need to be exceptional in health care, We need to be exceptional in recreation, We need to be exceptional in delivering clean, clear drinking water.

Some of those things are within our mandate directly and some of them are outside of  our mandate. 

But should any one of those pieces fail, we don't get to create that really attractive urban centre that draws people in from around the world so that they can fill the jobs and make Canada's gateway work. So We have a role and we have a responsibility"  -- Mayor Herb Pond

Not mentioned during the course of the Health Care overview, was what contribution that the MLA for the North Coast, Jennifer Rice may provide for as part of the community effort.

A somewhat surprising oversight from the discussion, as Ms. Rice has been tasked by the Premier with duties  as the Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health

So surely she could offer up some information for Council and its upcoming stakeholder committee work, towards what solutions that her office and those which the NDP Government may be able to deliver to the community when it comes to addressing the growing and concerning issues on health care in Prince Rupert.

You can review the full scope of the 25 minute conversation from the City's Video Archive starting at the 13 minute mark of the Monday Council Session.

More on Monday's Council Session can be reviewed through our Council Timeline feature.

A wider overview of Health Care in the Northwest can be explored here.


  1. Security at hospitals has always been cyclical. There is a spike in violence so security is added. With security there, the incidents go down. Budgets are tight, so they sacrifice security. Oh look, incidents are up. Better add more security. And round and round it goes.

  2. “I really believe that we as a council have to get involved in recruitment in whatever way we can. To either support Northern Health or go it alone and support our doctors to recruit other doctors"
    Get involved by doing the basics, plowing sidewalks, acting on unsightly properties, prioritizing safe streets.
    You are competing with other communities, a new website and a welcome to sign isn’t going to attract healthcare workers to our community.

    1. Prince Rupert has to up their game and their standards.
      What is ok for locals, burned out buildings, public drinking, crime, residential housing quality, unplowed sidewalks.
      Is not ok when trying to attract and retain skilled healthcare professionals.
      Rupert can't compete with Terrace because of their shopping and Rupert can't compete with Smithers because it is so pretty.
      Rupert has to beat other towns on the civic pride factor.
      Only then Rupert might have a chance in recruiting and retaining healthcare talent.

    2. Well said the lack of Pride starts at City Hall.
      Zero enforcement on eyesores and very rarely brought up, mostly taken under advisement and never any action.
      The only thing consistent is admitting we have a problem and doing nothing.

    3. We no longer have burned out buildings that I see, and the empty lots are tidy. The derelict building owners now need to be taken to task, as a start. Then, the neighbourhoods. Civic pride is apparent in pockets only and it costs nothing to be tidy. There is no easy formula and bothe the community and council need to work together ... and lose the negative Nellie keyboard warriors. Block nasty attitudes from your sites. Free speech yes, but we must encourage productive conversations because new people see that and they see the laughing at their requests for housing, etc. Somehow find a way to foster positivity, not negativity. That is something the community at large can do. My FB page has no tolerance for anyone being abusive towards new people exploring PR. We may not change everyone's impression, but it may change someone's impression. Off the soapbox now.

    4. Some of the empty lots downtown are tidy. There are others still with construction debris many with overgrown vegetation.
      There are bylaws to also enforce these being kept neat and tidy.
      Unused buildings covered with water stained plywood,, fading paint and the we don’t care look.
      A community includes the residential areas, the city seems to have a no go on enforcing cleanup bylaws there.
      City administration is the start of negativity they start getting serious about town cleanup others might follow.
      There is a saying;”Lead by example “ Not political lip speak but action.

  3. Getting rid of derelict buildings is a start and not the answer,. What’s next? When I was a child growing up here there was housing and accommodations for nurses. Maybe the city should start buying some properties for accommodations and start reaching out to more applicable businesses that can be affordable to consumers. Terrace has done what Rupert should’ve done years ago and this outcry I’ve heard a few years back, now it’s hit the fan and considered a problem(which I don’t deny). The money spent for tourism instead of locals has fallen on deaf ears, Rupert is affordable for those that can travel to Terrace and the occasional Cowbay area. Those professionals we need are starting careers and maybe need more stores to access and better facilities for their kids. We have a big problem this town cannot keep small businesses as another store has a closing out sale.