By Mariah McCooey-Port Clements residents – particularly some of the town’s many retirees and seniors – are not impressed with the Northern Health Authority’s latest move. As of Feb. 25, patients can no longer pick up their prescriptions from the local clinic. Instead, they have to make the trip up to Masset or down to Queen Charlotte – twice. One trip for their medical appointment, and another the next day to pick up prescriptions. This is no small feat, particularly for people who no longer drive or don’t own a car.
Piano teacher Myrna Ahern considers herself lucky – she still has a vehicle. “But it’s damned awkward!” she said. The 60-mile round trip is not cheap, either.
“It’s a cost many people are not able to endure,” she added, “a lot of people are just getting by, day by day, and that gas tank burns up money fast.”
Ms Ahern is hoping that a campaign of letters and faxes to the NHA will have an effect. Meanwhile though, she said, “it’s a catastrophe.”
“They don’t care about us!” she said, “They’re comfortable, they’re happy, they don’t care about some small town in the middle of nowhere.” And Ms Ahern is not alone in this sentiment.
Rosie Quigley has a chronic fatigue condition, which means she is unable to drive more than a few blocks at a time, making the trip to Masset a virtual impossibility.
“It gets to be quite difficult,” she said, “I’m pretty dependent on people – my husband works from 6 am to 6 pm.”
In addition to the inavailability of prescriptions nearby, the clinic closure itself has also affected her. The health authority forced long-time Port nurse Jonna Mattiesing to retire at the end of February, and has yet to hire a replacement.
“I think we could have waited (until a replacement was found for Ms Mattiesing) so we could have a continual flow,” Ms Quigley said.
Ms Quigley contacted Sue Beckermann at the Northern Health Authority with these concerns, and was disturbed to find out that the job posting for Ms Mattiesing’s replacement might not be posted for months.
Bunny Decembrini is also unimpressed with the health authority. Because Port is a community with a large number of retirees, she can’t believe that they would target Port for cutbacks in services. The 42-member Port Clements seniors’ group wrote a letter to the health authority back in December, but never got a response, she added.
“I think it’s totally, completely ridiculous,” said longtime Port resident Betty Dalzell, “everybody is affected by it.” Not just seniors, she said, but moms with young kids as well, who can’t just drop everything and go.
At the Northern Health Authority office in Prince Rupert, Sue Beckermann’s phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from concerned residents. In defense of the NHA’s latest move, Ms Beckermann said that she is still “looking at a couple of possibilities that might solve some of this.”
One possibility is to deliver the prescriptions through the mail, she said. “We’re not saying that ‘this is it, this is the end,'” she added. “We are continuing to try and find solutions.”
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