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Mayor concludes conversation about health

Community benefits from access to first-class services

City of Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa has concluded the community benefits from being part of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). “We do have the best of both worlds,” he said. “The case is closed. We are happy to be where we are.”

Formosa said he heard from many health officials and residents after an April 11 Peak article, which described how he wanted to start a grassroots conversation in the community about whether Powell River should be part of Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) instead of VCH.

Formosa said he was concerned about rumours of a possible amalgamation between Fraser Health and VCH and how that might affect Powell River. He was also concerned about the possibility that VCH was not going to fill a vacant radiologist position at Powell River General Hospital.

After the article was published, Formosa met with Kip Woodward, chair of VCH’s board of directors, and Wendy Hansson, VCH’s chief operating officer. “I heard first-hand about all the great assets, facilities and services we have access to,” Formosa said.

Any fears he had about VCH possibly amalgamating with Fraser Health were dismissed, Formosa added. As well, VCH is recruiting for a highly qualified radiologist. One of the difficulties in filling the position is Powell River’s remote location, Formosa explained.

“This really put me at ease with the whole situation,” he said. “It also made me feel even better to hear Wendy tell me that Powell River is very important to them. They are proud of many of the things and areas we excel at.”

For example, Formosa said, the community is great at attracting pilot programs and is doing well with them. As well, Powell River scores high in certain measurable areas within the system, he added. “This is good for the whole organization. I get the acute feeling that Powell River is very important to Vancouver Coastal Health and they very much want us to be part of the whole organization. They are proud of us and our accomplishments.”

Some recent developments are beneficial for the community, Formosa also explained. For example, a telehealth video conferencing program is being developed and there is training for the X-ray technician at the hospital to do CT scans after hours.

The next question is, “What as a community do we feel are our health issues now?” Formosa said.

Through discussions, a number of issues were identified.

Powell River is short two to three doctors, Formosa said. One of the solutions to that is to have Tourism Powell River representatives attend trade shows, job fairs and medical conferences to provide information about the community.

Powell River needs a hospice, Formosa also said, as it doesn’t meet the recommended two beds per 10,000 people.

As well, local doctors wish to be more involved in community initiatives. They have formed a non-profit society which focuses on community health issues and innovations in primary care, including more emphasis on preventive medicine.

“We’re very happy about how the mayor is viewing our relationship,” said Anna Marie D’Angelo, VCH’s senior public affairs officer. “Powell River has been and will continue to be an important part of the Coastal Community of Care that we have at Vancouver Coastal Health. We look forward to working with the mayor, councillors and all elected officials in the Powell River area.”

The next big project for the area is a new complex care facility, to replace Olive Devaud Residence. The $24-million project will provide 102 complex care beds in a facility that will be constructed on land adjacent to the hospital.

Powell River Regional Hospital District is providing 100 per cent of the capital to build the facility, through financing from the Municipal Finance Authority, as well as owning the land. VCH will lease the building for 20 years through an operating lease and is managing the project.