Health minister visits Queen Charlotte, Skidegate, Masset

  • Jul. 20, 2007 8:00 p.m.

Health Minister George Abbott was on the islands Wednesday and Thursday, visiting the health care facilities and meeting with village councils in Masset and Queen Charlotte, as well as with members of the Skidegate Band Council. We sat down with him in the board room at the hospital Wednesday afternoon.”I have seen a lot of things today that favourably impress me,” he told us, I think that what is being undertaken here in Queen Charlotte is very impressive.This facility is certainly in its latter days and I think the site administrator has done a great job. It’s an older facility. They have kept it first rate in terms of its maintenance”. The minister said he was impressed they are working to build a primary care program here and trying to build stronger mental health and addictions programs.”We also have an opportunity now to have some better integration around First Nations and non First Nations health care facilities and programs. The federal government is now moving to an integrated model. That provides us with an opportunity”.Our interview continued on the following subjects:The site of the new hospital for the south end.”(QC) council is doing a very able job of carrying the message forward that they are looking forward to a new facility here.They are grinding relentlessly, advocating fearlessly on behalf of their community towards the new facility, and that’s good.””We have had some (representations from Skidegate). I haven’t had those directly, but we have had indirectly those representations. I know there is some differences of opinion with respect to where the new facility should be located, between Skidegate and Charlotte.So I am going to listen respectfully to all points of view on that. I would note though that the regional hospital district, I think, has been supportive of re-development on this (Queen Charlotte) site. But I look forward to discussing the issue with the Skidegate Band. Perhaps there are ways there can be elements of health care delivery in both locations. We’d want to explore that.”On medevacs”The last thing that should ever happen is to see someone discharged onto Burrard Street at three O’clock in the morning with a pair of pajamas on. That is not an acceptable scenario in anyone’s mind to see that. I am sure not all discharges have been as perfect as we would like. On the other had the process involves a consultation with a social worker before the discharge occurs.”If you have a serious condition here and we medevac you down to St Paul’s, you get your work done, if you are going to be returned to Charlotte city for recovery in the hospital, we medevac you back. If the nature of your medical situation is such that we medevac you down, you get the treatment you need and you are in full recovery of your faculties and you are fully able to pay your way back. It is government policy (and has been for decades now) that you are responsible for your return travel.In terms of return, once you have been fully treated by the medical, that becomes your issue. I know some people disagree with it, but there are enormous pressures on the health care system as it is in terms of cost.If we were to engage on every piece of travel in every jurisdiction for every procedure, medical costs would increase enormously.If you are not financially able (to get back home), then the social workers will make provision through a bus ticket or a plane ticket or whatever to get you back home”.Access to specialists”We have a number of features in place.If those kinds of services are required, there’s the northern and interior travel program to bring specialists in. That program has been increased by 16 percent this year.I hope we will start to see more of is Telehealth, the opportunity (for example) for cancer patients to get a consult. We’ve had very good success with this on Vancouver Island and in the Interior. Telehealth is making its way over to the QCIs as well.One of the great things we are seeing out of the northern medical school at UNBC, when we train med pros in the north they tend to stay in the north. People who have grown up in the north get their training and stay here.Some of the nursing classes from UNBC and NWCC, that’s very helpful, too.I think that’s going to be a big plus for health care in the north