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Rally held for North Island health care

Port McNeill Hospital on northern Vancouver Island is shown. Port McNeill Hospital on northern Vancouver Island is shown.
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North Island residents gathered in Port McNeill Saturday morning to show their support for health-care workers and voice their frustration with the provincial government's response to staff shortages in the region.

Organizers of the rally at North Island Secondary School say there are only four emergency doctors on rotation in the region, and these doctors have limited tools with which to do their jobs.

People are worried that the difficult conditions will lead more doctors to burn out, leading to even more issues.

"In the past few years, the availability of health care in this region seems to have deteriorated," said rally organizer Fran Jenkins in an interview with CTV News on Friday.

"Island Health has been making changes, and some of those changes don't seem to make sense. It's actually making it more difficult for people to access health care."

Among those changes are "significant efforts" to manage the situation announced by the provincial government in January. 

The government promised $30 million to upgrade the Port Hardy and Port McNeill hospitals, and to expand substance-use, mental health and at-home health services in the region.

"I don't want to seem ungrateful for the $30 million they've allocated for our district," Jenkins said. "The things that they are doing with it, I question, because they don't seem to be directly related to the problems that we're having … There are better ways to spend that $30 million that would relieve the stress on the hospitals, that would open up our health-care system."

Emergency rooms across the North Island routinely saw closures during normal operating hours last year.

As part of changes announced in January, Island Health reduced the scheduled emergency department hours at Cormorant Island Community Health Centre in Alert Bay and at Port Hardy Hospital from around the clock to daytime-only.

Emergency room service at Port McNeill Hospital continues to be scheduled for 24 hours a day, but that leaves the region with just one always-open emergency department, rather than the three it once had. 

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