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Cumberland hopeful for lab re-opening

“People in Cumberland are getting a little bit left behind with the loss of that lab.”
Cumberland is hoping for its lab at the Cumberland Health Centre to re-open. Photo by Mike Chouinard

.Cumberland is hoping to have its medical lab re-opened at some point in the near future.

Coun. Vickey Brown raised the issue at a recent committee of the whole meeting during a presentation by Island Health staff about services for mental health and addictions.

“We’ve received some concerns from community members around our lab not re-opening,” she told Max Jajszczok, Island Health executive director for clinical service delivery for the north Island.

She said her understanding was that a staffing shortage was a factor and wanted to know how Island Health could address the matter, which was making visits difficult for people in Cumberland.

“Having to go to Courtenay is a significant barrier, especially for our elderly population here,” she said.

Brown added she knows of people not getting bloodwork tests done because of the travelling involved to another lab. She also said that every time she goes by the lab in Courtenay, there is a lineup of people waiting outside the building.

“People in Cumberland are getting a little bit left behind with the loss of that lab,” she said.

Jajszczok responded that they have closed some labs down on the Island to consolidate staff to help with the response to COVID-19.

“There are no decisions at all around having the Cumberland lab remained closed,” he said. “We’re still quite deep in the COVID response.”

He explained that Island Health has some planning to do around laboratory services, but he said at present the lab in Cumberland is not scheduled to be closed for the future and there is potential for it to be re-opened. He added that the last wave of COVID-19 has been difficult for health services.

Council members seemed pleased at the possibility the facility will re-open.

“They always say the squeaky wheel gets it,” Mayor Leslie Baird later said. “Well, we’re trying. We’re not going to give up.”

More for mental health and addictions?

The main purpose of the discussion at the meeting was around support for addictions and mental health services. Jajszczok, along with colleagues Lisa Murphy, who was just retiring as director of the area’s mental health and substance use (MHSU), and new operations manager for the MHSU Leanne Komm discussed some of the developments.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland councillor motivated by family member’s drug death

They talked about changes to views around the opioid crisis and the need to see the problem as that of a poisoned drug supply, as well as measures such as Suboxone to treat addiction, a Lifeguard app for phones to help prevent overdoses, inhalation services, testing for fentanyl and ACT-BC, the B.C. Assertive Community Treatment Program, a recovery-oriented mental health service delivery model that uses a psycho-social rehabilitation approach. Murphy clarified it works more as a referral service than as a street outreach program.

“ACT coming here wasn’t expected by me,” she said.

Mayor Baird wanted to make sure more would be devoted to counselling services, especially during COVID, in the community. She hoped in light of a recent large Pathway to Hope mental health funding announcement by the province in the recent budget, the community would see some of the money.

RELATED STORY: B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Murphy was not sure what the commitment would mean, but agreed with the need for counselling and other services.

“There’s does need to be a full menu of services available,” she said. “Some people do really well with groups, and some people do really well with some of the online or virtual options … but for people where that isn’t a good fit, yeah, some people absolutely need that counselling.”

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