Cakewalk Chronicles: Ashcroft’s medical state in turmoil

Monthly thoughts and opinions on small town living.

The Opera House dream

It was the hope of a goodly group who wanted to see the Opera House in Ashcroft restored to its former dynamic function. Entertainers from all over the country loved the acoustics, the ambience of that heritage building (which should be so designated, but isn’t). The early 1900s saw teamster balls that had the floors teeming with dancers while orchestras of fiddles, piano, accordians, played on the stage. Dramatization of our history, Christmas plays. It was all there. And to a packed house that put Ashcroft on the map, had visitors coming from Vancouver, Merritt, Lillooet and other towns.

When John Kidder of Ashcroft proposed to re-open the Opera House, people enthusiastically supported him. Proposals were presented. People listened. But the age old problem waited in the wings. Money. Or lack of it.

The proposals were considered, groups formed to discuss, but in the final analysis, obstacles became insurmountable, or seemingly so. The time limit set to negotiate with the owner ran out.

John announced, no doubt sadly, that the Opera House dream was no more. Maybe the dream has not altogether died. Maybe there’s someone out there that will walk into the town and see the potential of that building. Its restoration alone will probably cost half a million or more. Hope doesn’t cost a dime. Dreams don’t either.

Dr. Khan is leaving

He’s informed some of his patients that he is leaving to take up residence on the Coast. Where his family lives. Dr. Anwar Khan has served our community well. With all the diligence and care one could ask of a physician. We certainly wish him well in his future endeavors. God be with you! All we can do is hope and work toward having another physician, indeed, other physicians, come to our village in the mountains to serve as well as Dr. Khan did.


A friend and I over coffee the other day talked about the disintegration of our medical facilities. The closure of ER. An event that had been predicted at least two years before. We were given not a sliver of hope that it would operate again after closure. The Cache Creek community hall was filled to capacity by worried residents. Hands went up. People spoke. A mixture of indignation, deep disappointment, frustration, ensued.

But the bureaucracy had spoken. Unmoved. Indeed, we were told that in communities in the north (presumably around the pole), people had to travel for hundreds of kilometers to see a doctor, much less a hospital. Good grief! And here we are, in the sunny South Cariboo, with several major highways running through and nearby, where motor vehicle accidents happen often, where a third of the population is 65 or over, where the elderly are at risk for treatment that is essential to maintain their health and well being. Where the nearest hospital is Kamloops and it’s overcrowded, where the practice of so-called hallway medicine is common place. ER there sees people seated for hours. Yes, my friend and I fretted.

“Why are we writing Letters to the Editor about burning garden refuse in our backyards?” she asked, “when our medical facilities have been taken away from us”.

Good question? You bet!

Doctors are available

I think it was on CTV recently, that three medical doctors were interviewed, and declared that they would be “happy” to work in the rural communities of British Columbia. But there were obstacles that stood in their way. I didn’t hear all of the broadcast – and unfortunately it was a very short item on the news. Surely the powers that be can work to remove said obstacles. Are we over regulated? Are we placing the bar too high for professionals from other countries to jump over? And why are our schools turning out so few doctors at a time when they are sorely needed?

Canada is simply not producing enough doctors. And we are making it extremely challenging for foreign doctors who are fully qualified in their own countries to practice here. The problem is complex. But so is going to the moon, and building satellites that circle the globe. We could solve this one, given the will. Our basic problem is apathy. We’re just too damned comfortable. Complaining about smoke and freight trains at a time like this does seem, really, pretty well summing it up. Doesn’t it?

Raffle tickets galore

Let’s face it. The average domestic purse is not bottomless. We juggle our finances to include various charities and clubs, sure. Organizations that serve the poor, the addicts, the homeless, and organizations that protect domestic animals, wildlife, help doctors serving in areas of unspeakable poverty and suffering. Then we have our domestic responsibilities: rents, mortgages, child expenses, home upkeep, taxes, food and clothing. You name it.

The Journal lists about 25 organizations every week. Most of them seek our financial support. The card table brigade sets up in public places. Raffle tickets are sold by the bucket. Sure, you can say, “No thanks”, and the seller will move on without comment, as it should be. Courtesy and grace always go a long way in representing an organization. But if you have a particularly aggressive person selling and they are particularly vociferous, and you say, “No thank you”, and they do not move on without comment, then, you have a problem. Particularly if the fact that you did not buy a raffle ticket is broadcast in a public place. I kid you not! It happened to me.

It is unfortunate when this happens. Because, not giving when asked to is not a reflection on the refuser, but the organization the seller represents. And that is unfortunate indeed.


Every year our Ashcroft Rodeo parade gets longer and more fun. And people come from miles around to watch and clap and wave to the participants. Railway Street is lined with people of all ages. The horses drop their “buns” and the scoopers come to pick them up. The pipers pipe and hearts are stirred, and floats go by of various shapes and sizes. People mingle. People watch other people. It’s a great people-watching experience. It’s a community endeavor that deserves all the praise we can give its organizers and participants. The energy that goes into putting it all together always amazes me. You can feel it as soon as you hit Railway. What a wonderful feeling it is! It’s so good to be alive! Be grateful to those who made you feel this way!

Cataract surgery

In B.C., the soft ocular lenses used in cataract surgery, costs $450 per lens.  In Saskatchewan, they don’t cost anything. Dr. Jelfimow of Kamloops told us this some time back. But it isn’t Dr. Jelfimow who will be doing Sherman’s eyes, it is Dr. Pierre Faber in Vancouver. We’ll be away July 3-13, and hopefully, both of Sherman’s eyes will be fitted with the  new lenses and he’ll be able to see again. We will be staying with relatives who will provide not only accommodation but transport. In the meantime, here, I’ve arranged for someone to look after Tanner, our mixed breed, and hired someone to water the garden, now sprouting with wildflowers (of incredibly tiny dimension – Sherman laughs at their size), and the ring of annual plants around it. I had great fun putting it altogether.

Our Cache Creek property is still for sale, and hopefully, will find a buyer this year. It’s been a very busy month, arranging all this. My blood pressure has risen as a result. Dr. Khan warns. The things you were able to do 30 years ago are formidable challenges when you are our age. Multi tasking just isn’t for the elderly. I’m a one-thing-at-a-time person now. And resting? Well, that afternoon lie down for an hour is essential. See you next month. Have fun!

Esther Darlington MacDonald

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