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Changes made at Pemberton Health Centre

Security improvements and more staff part of plan

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Changes are coming to Pemberton's healthcare centre.

During a Village of Pemberton (VOP) Committee of the Whole meeting on July 25, Vancouver Coastal Health's (VCH) chief operating officer Karin Olson said steps have been taken to make the Pemberton Health Centre more secure.

Among the changes are additional nursing staff so that overnight nurses can work in pairs and new security glass at the entrance.

"When you have zero to three patients on average per night, it makes more sense to have an additional nurse who is trained to help, rather than a security guard, who is not permitted to intervene in a significant way," said Olson.

"It's more of a robust model that makes sense."

The changes come in the wake of a troubling late-night incident in February, which saw a lone nurse frightened by an allegedly intoxicated teenager who had forced his way into the clinic while the nurse was with a patient.

The nurse took a leave of absence following the episode.

It raised important questions about the safety of overnight workers at the clinic, which sees around 300 people a year during overnight hours, Olson explained.

Following the incident, the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) called on VCH to improve security at the Portage Road facility by adding a security guard and access to an additional nurse.

Olson said that there will now always be at least two overnight nurses on call.

VCH has also recently hired five full-time specialized nurses — whose primary role will be to travel with patients exiting the Sea to Sky corridor — to help address the staffing shortages.

"They are your back-up, your pool of nurses who will help support your staffing issues," Olson told the COW meeting.

Lighting has also been upgraded at the clinic, and staff has been advised to wear security call buttons, said Olson.

"(Staff) weren't necessarily all wearing those," she said. "And there was a situation where doors were open. And that's just because people are used to living in this community, and sometimes the (level) of security had slipped a bit."

No one from the BCNU was available to comment by deadline.

Olson also threw her support behind acquiring another ambulance for Pemberton and the Sea to Sky — something the community has been pressing for.

During the meeting, she explained that she is in talks with provincial authorities, and that a group of Sea to Sky physicians is also lobbying on the issue.

"As a health authority we are saying we need an additional ambulance to serve the Sea to Sky corridor appropriately," said Olson.

The province doesn't properly understand the needs of the Sea to Sky when it comes to ambulances, she said, adding that it tends to view the region's needs as comparable to other rural regions, whereas in reality they're much higher.

VOP mayor Mike Richman welcomed Olson's announcement and vowed to bring the issue up the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention in September.

"When these ambulances get taken down to the city, we're left really short," he said.

Olson also highlighted new technology being piloted in the region.

Known as the Clinical and Systems Transformation Project, the technology will digitize patients' records, eschewing handwritten charts.

The project, which is set to cost around $850 million, will link hospitals throughout the region, as well as with the Provincial Health Services Authority and Providence Health Care.

"If something happens to you and you're cared for at St. Paul's Hospital (and then you come back to your home clinic), the physician will be able to look up what happened to you," said Olson. "The whole line of care will be visible."

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