Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Immediate focus for City of Prince Rupert Health initiative is to ensure that the PRRH Emergency Department remains open, always

Council moved forward on its motion to create a forum of consultation towards addressing some health care issues in the community on Monday evening, adopting the Notice of Motion put forward as part of the Agenda on the evening. 

Once introduced, the council discussion focused on some of the elements of note in Prince Rupert when it comes to Health Care.

Councillor Teri Forster a nurse in the community, recused herself from the discussion owing to a conflict of interest, that left the topic to Councillors Nick Adey, Barry Cunningham and Mayor Pond for commentary.

Councillor Adey framed the situation by noting of the current weather for the region in the winter and the impact that also has on the service level expected in the community.

"I was driving back from Terrace today and it was a beautiful day, if. had been forced to make that journey in the opposite direction because of a medical circumstance, perhaps it would have been OK.

But even then, there were a couple of commercial vehicles in the ditch along the way and the notion that we could conceivably have a circumstance where our Emergency room closes, although I'm not aware of any immediate panic there. 

But if it was to take place, that journey is so heavily dependent upon the weather  that  it would be very problematic and so I think one of the points of this is to see if we can't offer some initiatives that will stabilize those possibilities, so that we're not at risk"

The Councillor also praised the advice from Councillor Forster from last session to include not just recruitment, but employee retention to the overview of their work and  stressed how the civic led initiative was not to overstep its scope of office.

"I just want to say that this is not by any stretch of the imagination to perform any kind of an end around the people at Northern Health, and in the Ministry of Health and our own MLA through her portfolio.

It's not to sidestep their authority, that's where their authority lies, it's to offer support. 

To help them  if there are ways to help them and other interested groups that participate can help them move those initiatives forward and provide some stability for the staffing of the medical profession"

Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa wondered if there should be a timeline to the initiative, thought the Mayor noted that there was some urgency to the issue and that they would work to get the group together as fast as practical.

Councillor Cunningham joined the discussion recounting some of his concerns many times in the past of previous commitments from Northern Health that have not bee met in Prince Rupert.

"We've been harping on this Transportation Highway 16 corridor for seven, eight years.

Northern Health promised us better Transportation systems, never came through with it.

They promised priority for optometry appointments, never came through with it.

Our citizens and residents of Prince Rupert have taken a back seat to a lot of the services that we should be entitled to have in this town and never given an alternative to going to Terrace to do it.

And exactly what Councillor Adey says is so true. 

I don't know how many times we haven't been able to travel that highway, or get a medevac in her for that fact, so we're isolated, we need those services.

The Councillor also noted how other communities have been active in recruitment in the region.

"I don't think we should be worrying too much about stepping on any toes here.

Terrace has already done their own recruitment, Kitimat has just done a study on recruitment and I think we just gotta follow suit.

I think right now Northern Health is bogged down just on recruiting for Mills Memorial, like I said last time it's a six, seven hundred million dollar hospital, they're having trouble even recruiting for their existing hospital and their going to have more trouble recruiting for that.

It's going to put more pressure on the other outlaying hospitals and areas and this notice of motion is very important"

The Councillor also noted that he has spoken to some of the potential industrial partners in the initiative and noted they were enthusiastic to become involved. 

He also recounted some of the challenges the city faces when it comes to attracting doctors, including as he observed one situation where a suggestion was made that a Doctor looking at Prince Rupert had been redirected to consider Terrace.

"I have heard stories and I know personally that I talked to one doctor and it was true. 

He wanted to come to Rupert, he was told he should be going to Terrace because of the new hospital and everything else. 

So we've got to step up and do some recruiting on our own ... I think we should get a hold of that copy of that study that  Kitimat put out and read that and get some ideas from that" 

If the Councillor or the other members of Council want to look it over, we noted on Monday that it is available here.

Mayor Pond weighed in on what he believes should the primary focus ahead.

"Hearing concerns that the Emergency Room in particular, that service was under threat of closure on temporary basis and so far Northern Health has managed to dodge the bullet repeatedly.

But we met with a group of local GP's, many of whom have been filing in up at that facility and when you strip it all away there's just too few of them left, covering too many shifts and their absolutely burned out

And while clearly we will sit at this table and talk with Northern Health about the broader recruiting that needs to be done in all kinds of areas.  

My most immediate focus is making sure that whatever needs to be done to ensure that the Emergency Room remains open, always, always has to be that most immediate focus in a much larger piece that says we need to be recruiting"

The Mayor also outlined some of the conditions facing local doctors, who have had to balance their practices with their growing hospital commitments; as well as to note that there is a need to inform the community towards the use of Emergency and other options available.

The Full Discussion to the topic can be reviewed through the City's Video Archive starting at the 54 minute mark.

More notes from the Monday Council Session can be explored through our Council Timeline.

A look at health care in the Northwest can be reviewed here

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