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Island Health goes to Ireland to find answer to Port McNeill doctor crisis

Two Vancouver Island-raised, Ireland-educated family physicians hired to fill shorthanded clinic
The Town of Port McNeill is getting two new family physicians. (Town of Port McNeill Community Planning Facebook photo)

North Islanders will have access to more family doctors as two new physicians begin their practice in Port McNeill this week.

Island Health is pleased to welcome Dr. Evan Rogers and Dr. Noah O’Connell to the Port McNeill Primary Care Clinic.

The two physicians are good friends, attended medical school together at the University of Limerick in Ireland, and just completed a two-year residency in the Comox Valley.

The pair is relocating to Port McNeill through the Return of Service Program, which commits physicians to a minimum of two years of service in exchange for their two years of postgraduate medical education.

“Adding two new physicians will make a tremendous difference,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island. “This is such fantastic news for people in our communities.”

Both Rogers and O’Connell are looking forward to exploring the North Island.

“We purposely chose to move to Port McNeill with our families to start practicing as new physicians,” said O’Connell. “We know we work well together and we’ll be able to support each other as we get comfortable working in a new community.”

“We had seven communities to choose from throughout British Columbia,” said Rogers. “I grew up in Parksville and Victoria and really enjoy outdoor recreation, so working in a rural, remote community with access to great hiking trails, the ocean, and the beautiful outdoors was important to my wife April and me.”

O’Connell, who has lived in a number of remote communities across British Columbia while working with the BC Wildfire Service before pursuing medicine, working and living in a small town is where he feels at home.

“I grew up in Metchosin and like the feel of a smaller community, as well as the camaraderie that comes with working in a team environment. It was important that I find a community where I could practice both family and emergency medicine, so I think that living and working in Port McNeill will be a good long-term fit for me.”

Rogers played varsity football with the University of Alberta Golden Bears while he pursued his kinesiology degree, and O’Connell rowed for the University of Washington Huskies while earning his biochemistry degree. R

The clinic’s coordinator, Jodi Wright, is excited to see the physician numbers return to what they once were.

“It has been difficult to watch our community struggle with the challenges of a constantly changing health care environment. Having Dr. O’Connell and Dr. Rogers join Dr. Toweir at our primary care clinic will allow our patients to access regular, timely, high quality care, leading to better health outcomes for our community.

“Bringing two new family physicians to the Port McNeill Primary Care Clinic will expand access to regular, high-quality health care for people in the region in a meaningful way,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “I am gratified to see Dr. Rogers and Dr. O’Connell join the Port McNeill community and be a part of the ongoing efforts to bring more physicians to communities across our province.”

All three physicians are accepting new patients and appointments are currently available for the new physicians. Patients looking for a family doctor can call the Port McNeill PCC at 250-956-6830 to make an appointment, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

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