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Vancouver Island health authority hires 18 new staff, delivers bonuses in effort to restore North Island care

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The Vancouver Island health authority has hired more than a dozen new staff in recent weeks in an effort to restore access to health care for northern Vancouver Island residents.

Island Health says 18 new hires have come aboard since Jan. 27, when the province announced a $30-million investment in a region that has been plagued by routine closures of health-care centres since last summer.

The health authority says it also expects to deliver more than $280,000 in quarterly retention bonuses and enhanced travel compensation to over 200 current employees.

The province announced in January that emergency departments in Port Hardy and Alert Bay would officially close overnight following months of unplanned closures, while the Port McNeill Hospital would become the only 24-hour emergency room in the region.

"North Vancouver Island residents are quickly benefitting from Island Health’s improvements, especially by attracting and recruiting health-care professionals from across the province, country and beyond," B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday in a release.

Island Health's vice-president of clinical operations for the north and central island regions says the health authority has established a task force to help stabilize patient care.

"Island Health is committed to sharing updates as we move forward on this priority work," James Hanson said in the release. "I’m proud of what the team has accomplished already."

The health authority says 18 candidates have accepted job offers in the North Island since a national recruitment campaign began, including two nurses from outside the North Island who will be starting work in the coming weeks.

The announcement follows a rally that was held Saturday in Port McNeill to show support for health workers while demanding action from the province to address staff shortages in the region.

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