One day two years ago my son and I were staying overnight on Cortes Island. About ten minutes before the last ferry departure of the day I noticed my son was having some difficulty breathing. An hour of phone calling and trying to arrange for care on Cortes were for naught; we finally drove out the rough road where we were staying to meet the ambulance at the island's medical centre. My son was put on oxygen, and we were told we should get to Campbell River Hospital as soon as possible. This decision meant travelling by Coast Guard boat from Manson's Landing around the south end of Quadra and over to the ferry landing in Campbell River. By now it was dark and an unusually strong southeaster was blowing. The Point Race came over from CR in record time, and the crew told us to brace ourselves for an extremely rough crossing going back. Their prediction was accurate. We were seated in the galley with pillows on the table for our heads, and bags placed strategically should the roller coaster ride prove stronger than our stomachs. Forty-five minutes later, after bucking our way through a rough following sea, we pulled up at the ferry landing in Campbell River where we continued on to the hospital. Three hours later we were on our way to the Discovery Inn with a tired boy who was finally – thankfully – breathing normally.
Without the Point Race this trip would not have taken place. Nor would a helicopter have flown, or a ferry be dispatched. Without the Point Race it may have been a hard night with a different outcome.
In all the years I lived on Cortes I never had need of medevac services. Our experience two years ago brought home to me the extreme vulnerability of our Cortes neighbours – and people all over the Discovery Islands – when medical emergencies, isolation, and bad weather converge.
A boat of less capacity than the Point Race would have made our experience that night more harrowing than it already was. In fact, a smaller Coast Guard boat was first considered for the crossing, but sea conditions dictated otherwise, according to the crew.
I applaud MLA Claire Trevena's determination to stop Ottawa in its tracks as it is poised to undermine further our margin of safety in the name of finances. I encourage Discovery Islanders to write to Gail Shea and urge her to reconsider this cost- and service-cutting scheme that puts island populations at risk for all the wrong reasons.
My letter will be going out tomorrow.
Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, can be contacted at:
House of Commons
Telephone: (613) 992-9223
Fax: (613) 992-1974
Web Site: www.gailshea.ca