A picture of Dr. Armogam at his desk

Photo Credit: Dr. Pream Armogam

The Loneliest Doctor on Vancouver Island

For Dr. Armogam, Port McNeill is home

Dr. Armogam has been a doctor in Port McNeill for 15 years, but now he is the only one

Dr. Prean Armogram says he “just wants to be a doctor.”

In an interview with the Times Colonist, Dr. Armogram said he normally gets up at 2 am to do paperwork before starting with patients. He is already a busy man, but after the only other doctor in Port McNeill leaves at the end of April, he may be even busier.

Dr. Armogam’s private practice also serves Mount Waddington, Kincome Inlet, Gilford Island, Alert Bay, Rivers Inlet, Zeballos and Sointula. The office has more than 5,000 patients, and he sees emergency patients at the Port McNeill hospital. “For me, as the last man standing in April, it’s very daunting.”

Dr. Granger Avery, a retired doctor, opened the clinic in 1974. In an interview with the Times Colonist, he said health care in town runs best when there are five doctors, a doctor-in-training, and medical students working in the clinic. “That’s when we’re really humming.”

The Port McNeill Medical Collaborative is the only clinic north of Campbell River that is run by independent and private doctors. This means they spend too much time running the business of the clinic and not enough time seeing patients. In December 2020, the clinic even closed down for a day because they weren’t getting support from Island Health, but re-opened because of calls from local people. 

According to Vancouver Island Free Daily, a spokesperson from the clinic has been nudging Port McNeill council and Island Health about this issue for 5 years. A solution may be to set up a public clinic like the one already running in Port Hardy. In Port Hardy, Island Health owns and operates the clinic where 6 doctors now work. Port Hardy and Port McNeill have roughly the same number of people.

Dr. Armogam likes the idea, saying “I’m pretty sure other people could do the business-management stuff better than us.” This setup would give him more time to “be a doctor.”

According to Port McNeil Mayor Gaby Wickstrom’s Facebook page, a request for proposal for clinic space went up in March and closed on April 12, but there is no news yet if a good space has been found. She told CBC that she hopes a good space will be found by the end of the summer. Mayor Wickstrom said she would like to see a clinic where doctors, dietitians, physiotherapists and nurse practitioners all work together.

Even when a space is found, it will still take time to get the office up and running. Until then, Island Health plans to use temporary doctors and doctors from nearby communities.