News

Oceanside Health Centre in Parksville over budget and maybe late

The Oceanside Health Centre is over budget and may not be open by June.

A Vancouver Island Health Authority spokesperson said this week "possible wrinkles" could push the opening of the $15.8 million facility past the date that has been promised to the residents of the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

VIHA's Suzanne Germaine said Tuesday staff training and orientation requirements may not be met in time to deliver a June opening date. "When it opens, it needs to offer safe, high-quality services," Germaine told The NEWS. "We are a little bit hesitant whether we can get it right by the end of June."

This news comes on the heels of word last week the health authority was asking the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District for an additional $435,000 to help with $1 million of what VIHA is calling "cost pressure," essentially more money that's needed to finish the project.

Parksville Mayor Chris Burger, who was quoted in the VIHA news release about the additional money required, was asked Tuesday about the possible change in the health centre's opening date.

"They are developing a completely different model," said Burger. "With that in mind, it's not surprising to me that they may have been optimistic initially in terms of when they would open."

"There hasn't been a lot of support locally —  that's a complicated subject which I'm not entirely privy to all the details on —  in terms of the doctors here."

In May of 2012, MLA Ron Cantelon said the centre was "on track for opening in June, 2013." There had been no official word of a change to that date from VIHA until the news release about the call for more cash last week made a reference to the facility opening "later this year."

Despite the hesitancy of VIHA, Cantelon said Tuesday he believes the centre will open June 24.

"It's full-steam ahead — there's going to be no change," he said.

Meanwhile, there is still no word on the employment future of the 15 people who work at Parksville X-Ray. That business was purchased by VIHA in November, 2012 and VIHA said the services provided by that business will be moved into the new health centre.

When it bought the business, VIHA said there was a process it must go though with union representatives, but "there is a shortage of qualified and experienced technologists and other medical imaging personnel in VIHA and it is expected that there will be opportunities for the staff who currently work at the Parksville X-Ray clinic."

A message on the answering machine at Parksville X-Ray indicated the offices were closed "for holidays" until Monday. Germaine, VIHA's spokesperson, said the health authority continues to be "in discussions" with the union over the fate of the employees and the staffing of the imaging services portion of the health centre.

There is also no clear indication about the future of the region's only after-hours walk-in clinic in Parksville. Germaine said "it's not our clinic" and presumably could stay open after the new facility opens. The Parksville Walk-In Clinic is owned by local physicians and they could not be reached for comment.

There has been no official word on any changes made to the centre's operational plan — open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year providing urgent care, primary care and integrated health services on a yearly budget of $15.5 million.

• Members of the Oceanside Division of Family Practice, local general practitioners, issued a news release Wednesday after they met Tuesday night "to discuss various health care considerations ranging from end-of-fife care to physician recruitment."

According to the release, local doctors say they "welcome the additional medical facility, services and professionals that will be brought to the community with the new Oceanside Health Centre."

"We look forward to working with the team of health care professionals that will be servicing our area. We know there may be patients, in Oceanside, who don't have a local physician and we look forward to their being offered services in Oceanside."

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