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‘Sigh of relief’ in Ucluelet as Island Health steps in to keep clinic open

“It was a nailbiter for me on a personal level”
Ucluelet’s medical clinic will stay open thanks to support from Island Health. (Westerly file photo)

Significant healthcare fears turned to cheers in Ucluelet last week as Island Health confirmed it would be stepping in to keep the community’s medical clinic open.

In a May 25 announcement, Island Health announced it had reached an agreement with Dr. Marshall, Dr. Forester and Dr. Horn as well as the landlord of the building to support the primary care practice’s operations for up to 18 months.

“It just gives us a big sigh of relief and we can move onto the next subject,” Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel told the Westerly News. “I’m very appreciative and I’m happy that they’ve changed their direction in the last month and ensured that there’s going to be no closure of the clinic. It’s going to maintain its operation.”

The clinic’s lease-holder Dr. Carrie Marshall and Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel went public with a series of interviews last month to explain that financial assistance was needed to keep the facility’s doors open.

Noel told the Westerly News on Sunday that an “exhausting” amount of steps were taken to reach last week’s announcement as Island Health wavered on how much assistance it was willing to provide.

“There were so many steps between my staff and myself and Dr. Marshall, begging and pleading and talking and trying to find different avenues to who is going to take over this clinic,” he said. “Up until the last final hour, Island Health had no interest in participating as the primary operator, so it was a nailbiter for me on a personal level, but there was no way that I was going to see a clinic shut down during my watch.”

Under the new agreement, the clinic will be able to offer in-person services on Mondays and Wednesdays with virtual physician services available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, according to the announcement.

“Island Health will contribute to the overhead costs of the leased space; including utilities, janitorial services and office and medical supplies,” it states, adding that physicians will have access to Island Health’s group purchasing abilities for medical and office supplies.

“In the weeks and months ahead, Island Health, the Long Beach Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, and local Indigenous communities and patient partners will work collaboratively to develop a service plan for the Ministry of Health to establish a Primary Care Network for the region.”

The district put out its own announcement on May 28 explaining council and staff had been working “behind the scenes to find viable solutions to avoid the clinics closure.”

“Advocating for our communities to have access to readily available medical care close to home is of utmost importance,” Noel said through the announcement. “We are very pleased that an agreement has been reached which results in the continuity of clinic operations. The entire community, as well as myself and Council would like to thank Island Health and the physician group for their hard work in resolving a short-term solution. We look forward to continuing this work to solidify a long-term solution towards a primary care network.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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