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North Island doctor speaks out on the region’s unfolding health-care crisis

Dr. Armogam acknowledged there is a serious staffing shortage currently going on across Canada
Dr. Prean Armogam is speaking out on the North Island health-care crisis. (Prean Armogam photo)

Doctor Prean Armogam has been living and working in the Town of Port McNeill for over 15 years now, and he’s decided to weigh in with his own thoughts on the health-care crisis that’s currently crippling the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Armogam, who runs a private medical clinic in Port McNeill, stated to the Gazette that “contrary to the declaration from the Port McNeill mayor and the health authority, there has been repeated unavailability around lab service and ER hospital access for people in Port McNeill and Port Hardy since at least March of this year,” adding that, “the people of Alert Bay too have been severely affected with closures and a lack of support despite multiple announcements of partnering and collaboration with First Nation communities to build on existing services.”

RELATED: Cormorant Island overnight closures extended till mid-September

Armogam clarified that for the sake of semantics, “these are not actual ‘closures’ but ‘service reductions’ that translate to no care availability. Either site is on diversion regularly for emergency patients brought in by ambulance or RCMP, but we are still expected to provide emergency care to patients if they self present. This is extremely unsafe to care providers and patients. The public remains in limbo as to which site to go to. Patients who are frail, elderly or requiring mental health or detox that would ordinarily be admitted, are being turned away to fend for themselves.”

When asked about how Island Health is dealing with the crisis, Armogam acknowledged while there there is a national staffing shortage currently going on across Canada, “there appears to be poor decisions on the local hospital closures. What is the barrier to operating one emergency care hospital for the region that is predictable and sustainable, at least in the short term, as recruitment efforts continue without having to close the other hospital?”

He continued, asking if there will be “a continued fragmentation of the emergency care services in the region as there has been for primary clinic care services by the local authorities with the departure of the regions’ physicians or nurses that no longer want to provide emergency care on account of a lack of health authority support.”

“Who owns the ongoing unnecessary spending of the public purse for worse care?” he wondered.

As for the two new doctors hired for Port McNeill, Armogan said he’s excited for the arrival of Evan Rogers and Noah O’Connell.

“In addition to the much needed emergency room coverage in Port McNeill, there will be more primary/clinic care that will consolidate the integrated healthcare established over 10 years ago for Port McNeill,” he said. “This is only possible with a full physician complement to truly embrace the principles of team based care. This is now possible with four doctors in town.”

“Dr. Anas Toweir and I remain part of the local physician group,” he added. “It is hoped that there are plans to meaningfully establish better regional care for all instead of the current piecemeal mindset.”

Armogam also noted he feels they are now closer to achieving the model of care they had originally set out to achieve, which he described as a publicly funded clinic to reduce the administrative burden on the local doctors, especially new to practice doctors, which will allow them to focus on clinical care and an alternate payment system.

“A special thank you to the patients of our town for their support in forcing the hand of the health authority and ministry in making possible salaried type/APP remuneration packages for the new to practice physicians by remaining patients at the private clinic in town. You have served a pivotal role in advocacy and change agents for our community. Province wide discussions on physician remuneration has certainly helped. It is hoped that there is now a further extension to salaried type/APP contracts for all the physicians in the region to make things equitable and more sustainable for the region in how we recruit and retain future doctors. There is much work to be done in how the clinics are administered. Hopefully there are some learnings from the operation of the Port Hardy Primary Health Care Centre where all the physicians would be leaving by next summer.”

Finally, he concluded by stating Port McNeill doctors remain available to all the patients they currently provide care to in Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alice, Sointula, Zeballos, Woss and Rivers Inlet.

“We are grateful for the health authority’s support in recruiting a further physician to our practice.”

RELATED: North Island health care in an evolving state of crisis


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Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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