The Port McNeill Medical Clinic has announced it will be closing its services due to a lack of support from Island Health. (Port McNeill Medical Clinic Facebook photo)

The Port McNeill Medical Clinic has announced it will be closing its services due to a lack of support from Island Health. (Port McNeill Medical Clinic Facebook photo)

Port McNeill medical clinic closes then reopens as talks with Island Health reach breaking point

“We are wanting regional equality with Port Hardy”

On Tuesday morning, the Port McNeill Medical Clinic (PMMC) announced it was closing until further notice.

By the end of the day, it was open again.

After originally announcing the closure on the Port McNeill Medical Collaborative Facebook page due to “lack of support” from Island Health, and encouraging people to “direct all questions and requests to Island Health and your elected local officials,” the clinic then posted around 6:30 p.m. that “after discussion with various stakeholders and agencies, we are able to continue with services.”

A clinic spokeperson said the reversal was mainly due to pressure from the residents of the community; nothing has really changed as clinic operators are still struggling.

“(We want to) turn the business side over to Island Health so we can just be doctors. We want to follow the Port Hardy model, that way we can at least get people to work here and stay. The standard for health care in our region should all be the same.

“It’s been five years now and there’s still no commitment from Island Health.”

RELATED: Port McNeill hospital will be diverting emergency room patients to Port Hardy

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The main reason behind the closure is due to the clinic feeling like it had been left with minimal options.

“We are wanting regional equality with Port Hardy,” the spokesperson said, noting it’s never been about financial compensation or funding for equipment. “It’s about changing the model [of health care].”

According to the spokesperson, this is the only medical clinic north of Campbell Riverrun by independent and private physicians, which is causing them to spend too much of their time running a business and not enough time as doctors.

“Port Hardy was in the same situation as us around 10 years ago, but Island Health changed the model which enabled them to get staff and doctors,” the spokesperson said, adding that Port Hardy’s medical clinic is in fact owned and operated by Island Health, which is ultimately what’s creating the lack of health care equality between the neighbouring towns.

Port Hardy’s population was listed in the 2016 census as 4,132. Port McNeill’s was 2,064.

When asked if Island Health has provided the clinic with any financial support over the years, the spokesperson said Island Health had promised to help them, but hasn’t committed to what was promised.

Island Health responding to a Black Press Media request for an interview with this statement:

“We recognize that with the recent departure of two physicians from the Port McNeill Medical Clinic (PMMC), this has been a challenging situation for the remaining physicians. However, family physicians are private, independent business people who choose where they want to locate their medical practice.

“While Island Health is not responsible for recruiting family physicians into private practice, for the last several months, Island Health has been working collaboratively with the Doctors of BC and the PMMC to identify and explore options to create a sustainable model for the clinic and its physicians.

“We are committed to continuing to work with the PMMC into the future, with the continued shared goal of developing a sustainable model to support the clinic and the communities served.”

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom said the situation is “concerning for us, especially as we are starting to hear of COVID in our region. So many surrounding communities rely on the availability of a clinic in Port McNeill. It’s been stressful for people needing to access care.”

Wickstrom added in a social media post that residents need to speak up and write letters to Island Health to help put pressure on all parties to find a solution.

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