Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Letters Written, Conversations to Come: City Council shares its focus on the Hospital and health care concerns in Prince Rupert


With a string of Emergency Room Closures having taken place since the last City Council session of earlier this month, it was no surprise that Heath Care made for one of the key discussion points for the City's Councillor on hand for Monday's session. 

At the March 11th Council  session Mayor Herb Pond had declared that the Closures were an unacceptable situation and had vowed to take the city's concerns to the offices of Health Minister Adrian Dix.

"The closure brings an immediacy, it is very concerning, And as Council knows, we wrote a very strongly worded letter to just about anybody that is involved with health, saying under no circumstances can that facility close ...  and it did.

So I have asked staff to put me in contact directly with the Minister of Health Adrian Dix and I will convey to him personally that every stop has to be pulled out" -- Mayor Herb Pond speaking on Health care  on March 11th

Mr. Pond was not in attendance at the March 25th session, so we don't know how successful he has been in impressing on the Minister of the urgency of the situation; though in a timely confluence of events for the week,  Mr. Dix was in town on Tuesday

The Minister making the trip down the Highway from his time in Terrace, for a first hand discussion with those at the hospital and at Northern Health.

Carrying the torch for Health Care in Prince Rupert on Monday night however were a few of those that were in attendance for the regular council session. 

With the first to speak to the issue on the night Councillor Nick Adey who observed of the late addition to the Consent Agenda for the night, that of two letters the city had written to Northern Health officials related to the Emergency Room closures.

Mr. Adey noting of the strong wording of the letters and recommending that the public have a look at them.

" I would just note that the late items, the letters that have been included as a late item, represent one of the rather limited array of things that a municipality can do about a problem that we're all concerned about. 

For those of you that take the time to read them, I think you will find that they are fairly strongly worded, coming from my perspective, I think  they needed to be.

So I do recommend that people have a look at those, if they get a chance and  if they are interested"

While the Councillor might have had a copy of the letters to reference on the night, it's not clear how the rest of us may be able read them.  

So far, the twin correspondences have not been attached to the Agenda for Monday night, nor have they  been made public on the city website, or through the range of other information portals that the city administers.

Mr. Adey returned to the Health care issues towards the end of the session, seeking some guidance on what measures had been taken towards additional measures during the ER closures.

"Given that the ER has been closed, I'm just wondering if we have a sense of what extra precautionary measures have been taken to mitigate the risks that are created by the closure of the ER in terms of emergency service providers and so on."

City Manager Robert Buchan, who was participating in the session by remote connection on the night, directed that question over to the City's Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller.

Ms. Miller outlined some of the measures she was aware in recent days. 

"So, unfortunately when the Emergency Department is closed, my understanding is that additional assets are brought in with BC Ambulance. I believe  last night there were, I want to say there was  three additional crews, so that would probably be four all in, as well as a critical care paramedic available as well.

So my understanding  at least in the short term while these closures are happening, that that's what will be put in place in order to help residents.

There is some additional information as well on the Northern Health Facebook page about when to call 911, when to look for a virtual physician, all sorts of things.

You can also find those links on the City's Facebook page where we've shared information from Northern Health"

Mr. Adey also had praise for the city's work in relaying the notices from northern Health through the city's social media outreach.

Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven also shared some thoughts on the issue, observing of how the regional Indigenous Nations rely on the Prince Rupert Hospital and the Emergency Room.

"I know that it's critically important that we alleviate this issue not only for Prince Rupert but just for our region as a whole as a designated Regional Hospital"

Councillor Wade Niesh observed of all the measures that will be needed to be used to address the concerns.

"Obviously we want to see as much pressure from every which way we can to try and resolve this situation because it's a terrible situation  for our community to be in, especially a community with a lot of industrial partners and we need to be able to look after their employees if there's an accident.

You know ... this is the top priority for the community right now in my eyes, we do need drinking water but this is very important and hopefully these letters that we've sent today and you know other conversations to he had in next time will make it hopefully to come to a resolution"

Councillor Barry Cunningham spoke to the theme of the departure of local physicians and how that has impacted on the Emergency Room at the Hospital.

"Not only are the villages and that getting more and more dependant on places like that, but a lot of people in town that no longer have doctors have to go there for different things, that normally didn't have to go there.

So now that they don't have a doctor, they're going to be going there more and more. So it's crucial, there's ... all of a sudden the vulnerability is rising up in the community.

To the point where you know, a lot of people whether their executive of a company, middle class worker, vulnerable person on the street or somebody in a village that has to travel hours to get here with no doctor are now be going to that ER.

So it's going to be used more and more until we solve this problem and the ER is front and centre on it, but getting family doctors is also important.

Mr. Cunningham also noted of his concerns related to the bureaucracy of Northern health over the assets of health care workers in communities across the region.

"And you know, I've asked before and I'll say it again, I'd like to know the ratio of desks to beds in Northern Health. Because you go to Prince George and there's desks everywhere and you go to a local hospital and there's fewer and fewer beds all the time

So I really think the priorities have to be reversed a bit. I don't know how Northern Health is going to solve but it but I think it's going to have to go higher than Northern Health"

To add to the urgency towards their efforts and following their commentaries, there have been two more Emergency Room Closures announced since the Councillors left City Hall on Monday evening.

The most recent one taking place today, with the ER closed from 8AM to 4PM

You can review their discussion of Monday from the City's Video archive starting at the one hour, eleven minute mark and again at one hour, sixteen minutes.

More notes on Monday's Council session can be reviewed from our Council Timelines feature.

A look back at the last two weeks of ER closures in Prince Rupert is available through our archive page.

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