East Shore residents plan to rally at the Kootenay Bay ferry landing Saturday morning in protest of losing their community nurse.
“We’re not happy about it,” says organizer Linda Leduc. “A lot of people are affected.”
Mary Donald served the East Shore Community Health Centre for 12 years before being let go in March.
The centre is open four days a week with three doctors from Nelson practicing in the community on a rotating basis on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The nurse provided coverage on her own on the fourth day.
“They just cut the position,” says Leduc. “They said ‘your services will remain the same. Don’t worry.’ But of course our services haven’t remained the same at all. If someone cuts their finger on the East Shore and calls the number, they get voicemail. They have to either travel to Creston or Nelson.”
There are about 1,500 residents served by the health centre with that number doubling in summer months.
Many of those residents are seniors, says Leduc, and with no resident doctor or hospital, concerns loom large.
Donald took care of much of the community’s elder care including home care and palliative care as well as in-office help to walk-in patients, wound care, after surgery follow-up care, helping with the transition from hospital to home, immunizations and taking blood.
Leduc wishes the nursing position had been reduced before eliminated.
“There is no one here,” says Leduc. “There is just no support for people.”
Interior Health’s Cheryl Whittleton explains the community on the East Shore isn’t without a nurse with the elimination of Donald’s position.
“To address the needs of all our communities, Interior Health did change the home health nursing position for the East Shore. Since the end of March, East Shore home health nursing has been provided through outreach from Nelson,” she says.
The Community Integrated Health Services administrator for Kootenay Boundary says the majority of home health-direct care is still provided through home support workers in their communities.
“IH continues to provide the appropriate home health nursing services to people in the East Shore based on the number of home health clients and their specific care needs. This may be once or twice a week or more frequently depending on the number of clients,” she says.
Whittleton says this home health nursing change also does not impact physician clinic hours or other services provided through Interior Health. Any changes made to service wasn’t entered into casually, she says.
“The decision to change our staffing for home health nursing in East Shore was not made lightly and came after a review of our home health service levels for all communities in the area,” Whittleton says. “Our priority is to make sure we allocate appropriate resources based on the needs of each community.”
Residents don’t feel a nurse travelling to the East Shore from Nelson suits the needs of the isolated community. Because of the ferry, travel is time consuming and people living on the other side would rather have their nurse who lived on the East Shore back on the job, says Leduc.
“To have a resident nurse, she gets to know the community. They know all the houses spread around the countryside. They know family members. A nurse coming in that doesn’t know anyone doesn’t make any sense,” she says.
The protest goes from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. If nothing else, Leduc feels the protest will be cathartic for East Shore residents and the nurse that gave so much to her community.
“It will offer her closure. It will show our appreciation from the community to her and maybe the IHA will listen,” she says.