The North Island Community Health Centre will finally be opening August 8 in Port Hardy.
The health centre has been under construction all summer and will officially open Tuesday. Helen Owen, the volunteer executive director, says the health centre aims to be responsive to local health care needs.
“It’s very exciting and I know there’s been a lot of people making appointments,” she says. “It’s an exciting new way for health care in the North Island, a new concept, and I guess the sky’s the limit. We will look for feedback from the community and go from there, and try and accommodate everyone.”
There are two doctors who will be working at the centre when it opens, Dr. Chris Gardner who relocated from Haida Gwaii, and Dr. Alex Nataros, who for years has fought for more health care services on the North Island, speaking out against doctor and nursing shortages and Island Health’s management.
Two other doctors are part of the centre, Dr. Howie Lee and Dr. Sue Booth.
The centre is run by a non-profit society and is volunteer-led, it will provide regular health care as well as extended medical and holistic treatments. All treatment for patients is covered under MSP.
It’s not the first of its kind in BC – there are similar non-profit run health centres in Saanich and Whistler that are highly successful, and the North Island health centre’s advocates are in contact with them for advice.
A statement on the centre’s Facebook page says “We believe that essential to the success of our non-profit Community Health Centre is community support/direction. At its foundation is a commitment to evidence-based, culturally safe, accessible primary healthcare, led by physicians. We build out from that to incorporate allied health providers/team members including pharmacists, Associate Physicians/Physician Assistants, nurses/nurse practitioners, social workers, educators, yoga instructors, physio and occupational therapists, traditional healers and medicine people.”
The centre is in the Thunderbird Mall across from Hardy Bay Drugstore. The 3,000 square-foot facility will start with 6 clinic rooms and a central multipurpose activity room.
Port Hardy and other communities on the North Island have struggled with a lack of medical services for years, particularly retaining full-time doctors and nurses. In recent years hospitals have had to close several times because of a lack of staff.
Island Health is currently doing a recruitment drive and has a dedicated website and promotional campaign to attract new health care professionals, offering signing bonuses and moving assistance.