Sunday, October 04, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Friday, October 2, 2009

Northern Health meets its customer base, the Lt. Governor pays a visit to a city high school and more surprises out of Watson Island, some of the items of note for the Friday news cycle.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
NORTHERN HEALTH... MEET PRINCE RUPERT!-- Northern Health hosts an information session in Prince Rupert to hear the concerns on health care from residents of the North coast. (Daily News Archive story )

Lieutenant Governor Steven Point makes a stop at Charles Hays Secondary School, invited to the school by librarian Diane Rabel. His stop at CHSS provided him the opportunity to discuss his job and aspirations for it with the student body of the east side high school (Daily News Archive story )

More surprises out of the Watson Island mill site acquisition for the City of Prince Rupert, with the details now responsible for the five monitoring sensors at the mill site each one requiring the city to have a transfer made for licences of ownership for nuclear devices. (Daily News Archive story )

The plan to automate light houses on the west coast was featured in Friday's paper, as we outlined on this blog Thursday morning, the Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has ordered a review of the plans of the Coast Guard to push ahead with their automation program. The plan will remain on hold until that review is completed (Daily News archive story )

CBC Northern British Columbia, Daybreak North
Hillbilly Heroin-- A feature piece on the growing problem of addiction to prescription drugs that is on the increase in British Columbia's smaller communities (listen to interview here)

Daily News , front page headline story
Northern Health... meet Prince Rupert!
By Monica Lamb-yorski

The Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, October 2, 2009

An information session was hosted by Northern Health in Prince Rupert last evening.

During the meeting local citizens expressed concerns about the cuts NH is making and the impact they will have on the level of health care.

In a short presentation at the beginning of the information meeting, Dr. David Butcher, VP of Medical for NH, described a strong primary health care system as one that supports northerners to stay healthy, recover after illness or injury, live as well as possible with disease and cope with end of life.

"We are working with doctors and staff to design different ways of treating patients," Butcher explained, sighting group medical appointments as a valuable and cost effective measure.

"You have to work with the money the government gives you. We're looking at examples in Alaska and Sweden where they decreased overall costs and made their health care systems more effective," Butcher said.

Comparing the cuts that NH has to make in comparison to other health authorities in the province, Butcher said NH doesn't have the same budget challenges and he believes NH is on the right track.

"We are looking very carefully at the services we provide. We want to provide them at the same level, but are organizing them in a different way. We don't want to reduce so we are working to preserve them in the most economical way."

Specifics around budget cuts weren't shared by NH, but after the meeting Health Services Administrator for Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, Sheila Gordon-Payne, confirmed she has to trim $4 million of her $83 million budget and Northern Health has to trim around $14 million.

Over seventy people from Prince Rupert, and as far away as Kitkatla, came out for the session and many passionately spoke of their concerns. From a plea for more staffing at the new Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert to frustrations over changes to the local Healthy Heart Program, it was apparent that people are unhappy.

"My mom is in Acropolis and has Alzheimers. There are two people for 18 to 20 patients and one floater in her pod. There are a lot of times when there is no one there to help my mom.

Is something going to change? Are we going to get more staff? The ladies working there are good but there's not enough. They are going to get burned out, " said Renee Blain.

Responding, Gordon-Payne said she is continuing to work on determining how to staff the new facility.

She has been signing off on positions for the manor, but doesn't want throw all the funding she has into it before staff can determine where best to use the extra help.

"We welcome concerns from the community. Keep an eye on us," Gordon-Payne added. "If you see things let us know. It's not our intention to have a place that nobody wants."

Something the community does want is a Healthy Heart Program and it was made clear that people are not happy with changes being made to the way it is going to be delivered.

Gordon-Payne confirmed she told staff on September 25 that the Healthy Heart and Home Care Nursing programs are going to be relocating back to the hospital at the end of October.

"I wanted staff to hear where we're headed and to be clear with them and to ask if we have the capacity to offer the programs somewhere else," she explained.

Judging from the comments made last evening, people are dissatisfied with the decision to relocate the Healthy Heart Program and some want the decision reversed.

They like the central location at the Ocean Centre Mall, feel comfortable using the exercise equipment there, rather than going to a gym, and they are concerned because service clubs donated the majority of the exercise equipment and are now wondering what's going to happen to it.

Former city councilor, Jack Rudolph, noted there's a lease on the space that isn't up until August, 2011.

"That's not a cost saving," he said, referring to the move.

Later Gordon-Payne confirmed that NH is signed into a lease, but said there are a couple of things that can be done. She also couldn't comment on the fact that over $300,000 had been spent renovating the space at the Ocean Centre Mall in 2007.

Gordon-Payne did say that the community has asked why NH is paying for space when there is space at the hospital.

"As far as the exercise program goes, I have had to look at adjustments to the budget. We routinely run well over our budget and we have to look at what services we offer," she added.

Other issues brought to the room revolved around stats on the NH bus.

Former City Councillor Ken Cote asked how much the bus is being used and was told that statistical information will be coming out shortly in NH's annual report.

Judy Warren asked when women in Prince Rupert will be able to have a mammogram, because presently they are having to travel to Smithers and Kitimat .

Warren checked into the NH bus schedule and learned that it arrives in Smithers at 1 p.m. and departs at 2 p.m. so that wouldn't give a woman much time to have an appointment.

"We want to know how soon we'll have a mammography technician here?" Warren asked.

The hospital's mammography technician has been off work with an injury and staff is trying to determine if the position needs to be advertised, responded Loretta Robinson, manager of the hospitals' imaging department.

Gordon-Payne said the Kitimat and Smithers option is interim. "We're doing the best in an absolutely unideal situation. We don't plan to go on like this forever."

Tony Briglio said he liked what he heard about the primary health care approach and that it's good news, but part of the issues and concerns people are having is the tinkering of budgets.

"People working for NH are doing the best they can but when it comes to the budget, how much time is given to deal with programs. It's really all about the money," Briglio observed.

When it comes to Acropolis Manor, Briglio said the bottom line is that the funding allows for 2.8 hours per patient and that's not enough.

"I've hired somebody to look after my mom three times a week. There are people that can't afford to do that. I hope NH realizes that there is a lack of funding."

Northcoast MLA Gary Coons said he hears similar concerns across his riding, but at the same time he doesn't want the pressure put on the people that are already overworked.

"In Prince Rupert people are concerned that there is no one staffing the new audiology clinic. We worked on that project for six years and it was servicing hundreds of kids. We have the most vulnerable education system in the province and we need that service," Coons added.

In her closing remarks Marina Ellinson, NH Chief Operating Officer for the Northwest, said she felt NH could learn from the information session.

"I'm impressed by what you commented on," she added. "The notes taken here will be used to inform our decisions."

The NH sessions will continue until November 6 and then the information will be compiled into a report that will be given to the board and then shared with the public.

"I've been to Prince Rupert a few times and people in Prince Rupert say what's on their minds," said facilitator Gary Ockenden.

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