Island Health and 'Namgis First Nation housing partnership aims to attract health-care staff to Cormorant Island

"By providing accommodations to health-care professionals, we can assist in overcoming one of the biggest hurdles people face when seeking employment – housing, “ said Gaby Wickstrom, 'Namgis Business Development Corp (NBDC) General Manager.

Wickstrom is referring to a new housing partnership between the 'Namgis First Nation - through the 'Namgis Business Development Corporation (NBDC) - and Island Health aimed at providing temporary housing for health-care workers on Cormorant Island while they find their own accommodation.

“Creating housing supports for health care workers is crucial to providing accessible and sustainable health care and is a key component in our health human resources strategy in rural communities,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Congratulations to ‘Namgis First Nation and Island Health on this partnership and finding innovative solutions that meet the unique needs health care providers and the communities they serve.”

Aligned with Island Health's commitment to attracting more health-care professionals to the island, this collaboration emphasizes the critical role of local community support in strengthening rural healthcare systems. This partnership, established in May, has accommodated 14 health-care professionals, contributing to the improvement of healthcare services for the local community.

"This partnership demonstrates the strength of community alliances in addressing healthcare challenges,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair. “Ensuring healthcare professionals have comfortable accommodations not only helps to overcome barriers to recruitment but also fosters a supportive environment for those dedicated to serving our communities.”

The centrepiece of this initiative in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island is 'Namgis House, a three-bedroom home with sweeping ocean views. Currently, two bedrooms are ready for use, with a third bedroom currently under construction.



'Namgis House, exterior (shown above).

Namgis House is a symbol of collaboration with the 'Namgis Business Development Corp. purchasing the property and Island Health entering into a lease agreement to provide accommodations for nurses working at the Cormorant Island Community Health Centre.

Jonathan Woods, an emergency department trained registered nurse, was impressed with the exceptional quality of his stay at 'Namgis House.

“Alert Bay stands out as a place where the people make an effort to welcome you, and this is reflected in the quality of their staff housing,” said Woods. “‘Namgis House is the embodiment of this hospitality – a modern, comfortable, clean place to relax after what is sometimes not the easiest workday. It makes me feel appreciated, and in turn, that makes me want to return again and again.”

James Stace, a registered nurse at Cormorant Island Health Centre, echoes Wood’s sentiments.

“Comfortable housing for health-care workers not only offers physical security but also provides a sanctuary where we can recharge, rest and find solace amidst the demands of a challenging profession,” he said. “The 'Namgis House is not only comfortable, but thoughtfully curated to be beautiful and inviting. This attention to aesthetics and design creates a tranquil and uplifting atmosphere, acknowledging the importance of mental and emotional well-being for those dedicated to their tireless efforts in healthcare.”


'Namgis House, living room (shown above).

Max Jajszczok, Island Health Executive Director, Community Hospitals, Rural and Remote, is enthusiastic about the significant impact this partnership has made in helping to recruit health-care professionals in the region.

"We are thankful for our partnership with the ‘Namgis First Nation, this collaboration stands as a testament to our shared commitment to health-care excellence and community well-being,” he said. “By providing comfortable living spaces, we're further enhancing North Vancouver Island's appeal as a destination for health-care professionals aiming to make a meaningful difference for their patients and community."

Hayley D. McConnell, the Operations Coordinator of Engagement, Recruitment, and Retention for North and West Island Rural and Remote shared the partnership’s ultimate goal, “We want to ensure that housing is not a barrier for recruitment.”

NBDC recognizes the importance of ensuring comfortable accommodations for health-care professionals.

“NBDC was eager to partner with the ‘Namgis First Nation and Island Health to help address staffing challenges facing Ya'Lis (Alert Bay). Quality healthcare is especially vital for those living in rural, remote regions like ours. We are pleased to know that 'Namgis House is well used and loved by staff staying there,” said Wickstrom.

The 'Namgis First Nation and Island Health housing initiative represents not only a housing solution but also a bold step in health-care recruitment. It exemplifies the potential realized when communities come together to address critical needs and Island Health's dedication to increasing health human resource capacity and adapting to changing workforce needs.

“Attracting and retaining health-care workers requires new ways of working together to find solutions, and the purchase of 'Namgis House is a concrete example of how collaboration can achieve results,” said Kelly Speck, ‘Namgis First Nation Councillor and chair of the ‘Namgis Health Board. “The Nation looks forward to future opportunities to collaborate with Island Health to improve health services.”