I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Rural Citizens Advisory Committee teleconference to share local perspectives on and priorities for rural health care throughout the province.
It is clear that the centralization of health care to urban areas has negatively impacted rural B.C., but at the same time that the solution to consistent, sustainable health care for each rural catchment area is unique.
Here, vacancies for registered nurses are at a critical level, leaving physicians unsupported to provide emergency care. Emergency services have been closed three times in the month of May alone.
In addition, an imaging technician has given notice to resign. Doctor retention is low and the community is forever recruiting.
The “revolving door” style of health care is not working effectively for us. Neither is the bureaucratic morass of our regional health “authority,” Interior Health.
Interior Health has not been receptive to having meaningful dialogue with our local Wellness and Health Action Coalition (WHAC), a dedicated group of volunteer citizens who are committed to redesigning our rural health care by working on organizing a community-based primary care clinic, fully staffed with an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals, and by involving all of the community’s resources in promoting health. Interior Health has resisted collaborating for solutions and has provided no information of its intent.
WHAC has launched an online petition to implore that Interior Health make recruitment of all staff required to maintain emergency services a priority and will send this petition to their CEO, the Minister of Health and the MLA for Fraser-Nicola.
It was gratifying to hear that the Ashcroft Village Council also resolved to request a meeting with the CEO of Interior Health to discuss the emergency department closures. I hope that our politicians have strong words to share.
Nobody wants to see the vestiges of our hospital, now deemed a health care site, eroded any further. A groundswell of citizen engagement is needed. Go to the Health and Wellness Coalition page on Facebook, sign the petition and support our future health services.
Facebook is full of petition requests from local citizens of Ashcroft concerned about the possible closure of laboratory services and other services which our health centre offers. But petitions in themselves, especially those on social media like Facebook, are unlikely to carry much weight.
Much more effective would be a delegation of citizens from Ashcroft going to Kelowna to Interior Health directly. And the appointment of a spokesperson. A woman spokesperson armed with the reasons for the continued maintenance of our health facility would be necessary.
One of the chief reasons for continued maintenance and even enlargement is the fact that Ashcroft is experiencing new development. We are on the edge of a “boom.” The signs are there. Housing is in the planning stages, for example. Industrial development only 2 km from Ashcroft has been ongoing and will continue. This will require a stable workforce. Families need housing. As they did for the development of the mine in Highland Valley.
The closure of our lab facilities would result in disaster. Without them, doctors would leave. Pharmacy would close. It is my hope that a dynamic personal encounter with Interior Health by Ashcroft would be more meaningful in every way. If we want to keep what we have, after losing so much of what we had in years past, we’ll need more than a petition.