PORT ALICE, B.C. – Changes are coming to the Village of Port Alice’s Health Centre.

But the members of the Port Alice Health Forum do not feel they are good changes.

Members of the forum launched a petition asking for the changes not to go through. Port Alice Health Forum Society director Pauline Steele said that the proposed changes will mean losing emergency care at the village, as well as a reduction in doctors and nurses. She added that the changes may also mean losing emergency equipment at the health centre and after-hours urgent response.

Steele said the health centre had two doctors and two nurses but with the proposed changes, there will only be one doctor four days a week, and one nurse.

“That will make it very difficult for any doctor to practice in Port Alice if they don’t have a full practice,” Steele said.

According to Steele, Island Health is making the changes due to a decrease in the village’s population. However, she said that is not true as the village has seen an influx of active retirees and families looking for affordable accommodations.

“People are buying homes here to retire. Our population is on the increase, and we feel this is not the right time to be making those kinds of decisions to cut back on what we have here for our health centre,” Steele said.

Valerie Eyford, Port Alice Health Forum Society’s chairperson, said the changes could put lives at risk if they do go through.

“The NDP government has been busy touting that they are going to fix healthcare and that the community-based health centres are the way to go. They say that and yet, we have a community-based health centre here in Port Alice and what they want to do is to remove all emergency services,” Eyford said.

Eyford said that the proposed changes will make the health centre more of an urgent primary care centre. She said that sprains, strains, and other non-emergency injuries will be taken care of.

“But if for some reason you needed emergency services, perhaps you have difficulty breathing or you’d broken some bones or you’re exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack, you’d have to call 911 and an ambulance will come and take you either to Port Hardy or Port McNeill.”

“But by the time the ambulance comes for you, it’s an hour and a half, two hours, maybe three by the time you get to Port Hardy or Port McNeill to receive any help. By that time, you’re quite likely dead.”

Eyford added that the changes are unacceptable.

“They’re taking a chance that there’s nobody in Port Alice that’s ever going to need emergency services.”

Steele and Eyford also pointed out that emergency care is needed in the village as many residents are loggers.

“It’s dangerous, and anything can happen and it’s really important that we have prompt attention to medical emergencies right here in the village,” Steele said.

Island Health is hosting a community meeting on February 20th at the Port Alice recreation centre from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The petition can be found through this link.

EDITORS NOTE: An interview with Island Health to comment on this matter is set up for tomorrow.