Friday, November 20, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Thursday, November 19, 2009

More questions about audiology services in Prince Rupert, BC Ferries makes the news again on the North coast and Naikun Power moves a little further along with its plans, some of the items of note for Thursday.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
LENDING AN EAR TO THE ISSUE OF AUDIOLOGY-- Northern Health continues to try and attract an audiologist for the Prince Rupert audiology clinic, but so far only contract audiologists have been utilized at the Rupert clinic, the Daily News updates the situation in the Thursday edition.

Naikun power makes the latest cut in BC Hydro's Clean Power Call, moving the wind farm projects for the North coast a little further down the progress line. Hydro had eliminated 21 proposals that did not meet their requirements. Naikun recently approached the City of Prince Rupert looking for relief on land use taxes, a holiday which could go as long as 25 years. The wind energy company is currently in the final stages of its certification process, which should see a decision rendered by the provincial government by the end of the year.

Gary Coons, the NDP MLA for the North Coast wants to see BC Ferries to be placed back under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The Ferry Corporation was removed from those requirements seven years ago, a move which Mr. Coons suggests has made them less accountable and transparent in their operations in the province.

The Sports section featured its weekly review of last weekend's City Basketball League action, with recaps of games in the PRMBA in all divisions.

(Daily News Archive Articles for November 19 )

The Northern View
(No new items posted for November 19)

CFTK TV 7 News
Concerns raised over proposed BC Ferry route -- The NDP MLA for the North coast has more than a few concerns about the proposed BC Ferry route between Vancouver and Prince Rupert, the main one being a loss of twenty current sailings to Rupert (see article here)

CBC Radio British Columbia, Daybreak North
Privatizing land in the Nass -- Recent plans to privatize land under control of the Nisga'a government are examined (listen to interview here)

Daily News, Front page, Headline story
Lending an ear to the issue of audiology
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Thursday, November 19, 2009

There continues to be confusion around the future of Prince Rupert’s audiology clinic.

Northern Health confirmed it is hoping to hire one audiologist that would work in Prince Rupert and Terrace, but in the meantime have only been able to contract audiologists to take turns working in the Northwest.

“There is a potential candidate for the job interested in the full-time position, but we are only in the process of signing a contract so the job remains posted,” said NH Senior Manager of Preventative Health Sharon Davalovksy Tuesday.

Prince Rupert’s audiology clinic opened at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in January 2009 to expand Northern Health’s Northwest Public Health Audiology Program with funding from Child Health BC to the tune of $585,000.

But after the resignation in April of Senior Northwest Audiologist Dr. Jess Rainey who was coming to Prince Rupert regularly to see patients, the clinic has only been in use by an audiology technician for basic screening.

An article in the Daily News dated Nov. 5 addressed concerns raised by Northcoast MLA Gary Coons about the clinic being without an audiologist. In response to this, Dr. Rainey said the functions presently being performed by the technician are not dependent on the clinic.

“Further, this staff person has not at all been trained to do any of the audiometric technician functions that are required for a Public Health Audiology Clinic to operate.”

Dr. Rainey explained that those functions include trouble shooting hearing aids, taking ear mould impressions, and sending and receiving hearing aids for repair.

“These are functions the local school district had expected from this clinic. Despite the clinic’s existence, the school district is being forced to send hearing aids back and forth through the mail just as before. Ear mould impressions remain problematic,” Dr. Rainey noted.

According to Davalovsky when the Prince Rupert clinic was proposed by Child Health BC it was not anticipated that there would not be an audiologist in the region.

“The clinic has a technician that can cover some aspects of the clinic and we do have support for our audiology technician, really it’s a recruitment issue for us,” she said, adding that there are only two universities in Canada graduating audiologists and many of those graduates prefer to go to private clinics because it is more lucrative.

In light of the recruitment problems, Davalovsky explained that NH has changed its focus and moved to a regional model where there will be one technician in place and an audiologist providing training, support and audiology intermittently.

Prince Rupert pediatrician Dr. Jeffery Simons said Prince Rupert’s clinic doesn’t need a full time audiologist, but needs “a commitment for an audiologist to spend enough time in the clinic that we can provide services to children in Prince Rupert and from the villages.”

Reacting to comments made by Northcoast MLA Gary Coons that the region’s incidence of ear infections and need of pressurized equalization tubes is highest in the province, Dr. Simons agreed the First Nations population is more vulnerable.

However, he noted, there has been some decrease in numbers because of the pneumococcal vaccine being made available to children.

The Northcoast is not the only area in the province without a permanent audiologist. Presently the Northeastern part of the province is also lacking one, due to retirement, and with the launching of the province-wide Early Screening Hearing Program, the demand for audiology services has increased.

The first part of the early screening program is done by a technician and when a child doesn’t pass that basic hearing test they have to be given more detailed testing within three months by an audiologist.

Northern Health’s lead audiologist Dr. Susan Trowell-Martin of Prince George has committed herself to the early screening program, said Dr. Simons, and has been travelling around to various clinics across the north.

Dr. Trowell-Martin has also been tasked with trying to recruit audiologists to the north, added Davalovsky.

In anticipation of the Early Hearing Screening Program being implemented and the new clinic opening in Prince Rupert, Dr. Rainey began requesting NH to hire a second audiologist for the region back in 2006.

“Funding for a second audiologist eventually became available from Federal Aboriginal monies. Given the high representation of First Nations along the North Coast and in Haida Gwaii, I think this was a very appropriate use of these monies,” Dr. Rainey said.

When asked what happened to the federal funds, NH’s Director of Communications Steve Raper said they were partially reassigned back into Aboriginal health for a different initiative. “There was no point leaving the money sitting there.”

Dr. Rainey still believes a single position is not sufficient to meet target population for public health audiology in the Northwest.

“A detailed work load analysis between myself, management and other stakeholders in the Northwest in December 2008 concluded this,” he said.

When asked if he would be willing to return to his position, Dr. Rainey said:

“I am willing to come back to my former position as Senior Audiologist, Northwest Region based in Terrace, should management commit to supporting services as they existed up to my departure. This would include providing regular service to the Prince Rupert clinic until the position there can be filled. In the meantime, I am available to provide service on an itinerant basis. Management is aware of this, but I have not yet been asked.”

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