A public health forum took place Thursday (Jan. 30) in Parksville though only a handful of residents had the opportunity to ask questions or voice comments.
Island Health hosted the forum at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre. Island Health President and CEO Kathy MacNeil was at the event, making a presentation on providing equitable and compassionate health care in the area. She went over some Island Health initiatives, including plans and ideas related to culturally sensitive health care and updated mental health practices, as well as other areas of focus. She touched on the doctor shortage in the area — a hot-button issue for many residents. As of May 2019, 6,000 to 8,000 residents didn’t have a family doctor.
“For many people, finding a doctor can be difficult, and we know that,” said MacNeil.
The end of the forum left approximately 12 minutes for questions from the audience. In response to an audience member’s question about the doctor shortage, MacNeil said that Island Health is working on a solution.
“Why doesn’t Island Health not try some of the other initiatives like Fraser Health? This is not a good situation for any of us,” said the audience member, followed by applause from attendees.
“You have every right to advocate for the need for primary care, we are as concerned because primary care it the foundation of our health system,” said MacNeil in response. “We’re working with the local division of family practice, with the First Nations health authority, to work on what will work for this community and hopefully soon to be able to release some of what those investments have been. I can guarantee there will be some work done here in this community very much in line with the other health authorities in British Columbia.”
Other concerns from the audience surrounded stigma in the health care system toward people who suffer from substance addiction, the lack of nurse practitioners in the area, concerns about the lack of psychiatrists in the area and caregiver burnout.
Other area organizations and groups also spoke, each getting the floor for approximately 10 minutes.
A presentation from the Snaw-Naw-As Garden of Spiritual Healing Initiative, a program funded partly by an Island Health Community Wellness Grant, showcased how they were able to create a community garden at the Snaw-Naw-As Community Health Centre that allows community members to access to fresh food as well as learn about traditional plants.
Other groups included Forward House, who spoke about their core funding from Island Health and how it allows them to help approximately 100 people per month.
The Oceanside Palliative Care Network spoke about their program, and also emphasized that the public can access their services even if they don’t have a dedicated physician. Treatment Pathways Oceanside made a presentation as well, stressing that stigma needs to be reduced towards people who suffer from addiction.
Dr. Paul Hasselback, the Medical Health Officer for Central Vancouver Island, spoke about compassion in the health care system and the need for more of it, as well as a general health and wellness update for the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.