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Presentation to Select Standing Committee on Health

July 7, 2016

Dr. Denise McLeod presents to the province’s select standing committee on health (from the Prince George Citizen – Brent Braaten, Photographer)

The following is the content of the presentation given to the BC Select Standing Committee on Health by Edward Staples, SOHC President:

July 4, 2016 – 11:00 am
Douglas Fir Committee Room (Room 226), Parliament Buildings, Victoria

Thank you for holding these public hearings on health care in British Columbia. I am here today representing the Support Our Health Care Society of Princeton and the BC Health Coalition as a member of their Steering Committee.

My original interest in the work of this committee was in 2014, when I made a written submission as President of the Support Our Health Care Society of Princeton. I’m pleased to see that the Committee is looking for more information on three of the original questions and that the information gathered on end-of-life care has now been released in the report, Improving End-of-Life Care for British Columbians. Congratulations to the Committee for the work you’ve done on that important issue.

How can we improve health and health care services in rural British Columbia? In particular, what long-term solutions can address the challenges of recruitment and retention of health care professionals in rural British Columbia?

I’ve been a resident of Princeton for eight years and have been actively involved in health care in our community for the past four. For this reason, I feel most comfortable addressing the first question regarding health care services in rural British Columbia.

Princeton, I believe, is typical of what it means to live in a rural, remote community in BC. Our population base is roughly 5,000 (on a good day); our demographic consists of an ever larger senior population; our economy is based on forestry, mining, ranching, and, increasingly, tourism; and our nearest regional service centre (Penticton) is about an hour and a half away. Four years ago our community was in a health care crisis with only one doctor providing on-call service, 24 hour emergency department services only available on weekends, an acute shortage of health care professionals, and residents who were up in arms. Since then, through a collaborative effort involving local organizations, elected officials, health care practitioners, and IH administrators, Princeton is now in a much better position with four full time GPs, two NPs sharing a full time job, and a full complement of professional staff.

But our situation is still not ideal. We are still short one general practitioner and many residents are unattached and looking for a family doctor elsewhere in our area. At present, there are no practitioners accepting patients in the Okanagan-Similkameen region and Read more »

SOHC’s nomination letter for 2016 Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine

June 15, 2016

princeton healthcare team photo 1
Some of the members of the Princeton Health Care Team.

To: Sharon Mah, Rural Coordination Centre of BC

From: Edward Staples, President, Support Our Health Care (SOHC) Society of Princeton

Re: Nomination for an Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine in the Resilient Community category

The Support Our Health Care (SOHC) Society of Princeton would like to nominate the healthcare team at Cascade Medical Centre and Princeton General Hospital for a 2016 Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine in the Resilient Community category.


As a direct result of a shortage of family physicians and healthcare professionals, Princeton and District has recently gone through a serious healthcare crisis. It reached a critical stage in April 2012, when we had only one doctor providing on-call service and our emergency department was closed four nights a week. Exacerbating the crisis was a critical shortage of nurses, medical office assistants, and laboratory staff.

At the peak of the crisis in January 2013, SOHC held a Health Care Community Consultation in response to community concerns over the shortage of health care professionals and the resulting erosion of services. This research based consultation was facilitated by Dr. Barbara Pesut, Associate Professor at the UBCO School of Nursing and Canada Research Chair in Health, Ethics and Diversity.

The results of the Consultation were summarized and published in a report that was released to the public. In response, the health care practitioners began working collaboratively with Interior Health, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, the Town of Princeton, and local community groups to address the challenges and concerns identified in the report. This led to the formation of the Princeton Health Care Steering Committee in July 2013.

Over the course of the next several months, we were fortunate to have three doctors join the one remaining doctor at Cascade Medical and for a short time our community was enjoying a period of relative stability. However, this was not to last. Within the next few months one of the doctors left to be with his wife and family and to set up a practice in the lower mainland. And within a year it was determined that another doctor would be leaving upon completion of her two year certification requirement. Realizing the untenable situation, the two remaining GPs, Dr. Black and Dr. Monro, began working on recruitment. Their approach was to portray our community’s health care system as a positive, stable model staffed with young, energetic professionals working collaboratively to serve the community. The practitioners worked with SOHC to develop materials that could be used in their recruitment efforts. They also worked closely with Interior Health to take advantage of available recruitment programs.

Until permanent practitioners were recruited, Cascade Medical Group (CMG) needed to rely on locums to fill our community’s health care needs. Initially, there was some difficulty in attracting locums. In response, one of the physicians suggested a campaign to attract locums. The Love a Locum campaign was started, aimed at making locums feel welcome when they came to Princeton. SOHC organized a community-wide appeal, resulting in a large number of donations that included Save On Foods welcome baskets presented by our Mayor, home canned goods, home cooked meals, tickets to our local hockey team’s home games, and rounds of golf at the Princeton Golf Club. In addition, CMG requested accommodation support from Interior Health, resulting in provision of a furnished apartment close to the hospital and clinic. This program has now been in operation for over a year and has contributed to the successful recruitment and retention of locums.

Achievements and Successes
Over the past three years, the Cascade Medical Group has provided outstanding leadership and guidance in the formation and implementation of the Princeton Health Care Steering Committee Action Plan, successfully addressing many of the health care challenges that our community has faced. Central to this success has been the willingness of the entire team to work collaboratively to develop programs and initiatives aimed at providing sustainable solutions.

Today, as a result of collaborative recruitment efforts involving Cascade Medical Group, Support Our Health Care, and Interior Health we now have four full time general practitioners, two nurse practitioners (sharing one FTE), a full complement of nursing and laboratory staff, and a long list of available locums. This has contributed Read more »

An open letter to the Hon. Jane Philpott: Defend Medicare

June 10, 2016

Canadian Doctors for Medicare | 340 Harbord Street | Toronto, Ontario | M6G IH4

June 10, 2016

The Hon. Jane Philpott | Minister of Health| House of Commons| Ottawa, Ontario | K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Philpott:

Yesterday, Saskatchewan Minister of Health Dustin Duncan introduced a bill to allow privatized CT scan services where patients can pay for priority treatment and jump ahead of the queue.

This bill is the latest in an alarming series of violations of the Canada Health Act that are on the rise across the country. Quebec’s Bill 20, Alberta’s issues with the Copeman Clinic, and private MRIs in Saskatchewan all overtly defy the Canada Health Act and undermine Canadian medicare.

Canadian Doctors for Medicare is concerned the Saskatchewan government’s intention is to create a two-tier health care system in that province but are equally concerned your government has not, as yet, acted on your duty to protect the Canadian health care system.

Minister Duncan asserts that introducing private CT scans will increase public capacity and reduce wait times without costing the taxpayers any dollars. However, research on parallel private care has shown that, without exception, when private parallel for-profit health services are introduced, the result is greater wait times within the public system.

Evidence also shows that private, for-profit clinics drain the limited supply of health professionals from the rest of the health care system, lengthening waiting lists and reducing access.We also know that wait times can be decreased through initiatives within a single payer system.

These experiments will increase inequities between the most affluent and all other patients, especially those in small towns, rural areas and indigenous communities, who are never the “beneficiaries” of private care. What’s more, every indication is that they will fail, at great cost. When he first introduced the concept of pay-per-use diagnostic imaging to the province, Premier Wall cited Alberta as an example; however, the Government of Alberta has moved away from the policy at great cost. Alberta was forced to repay patients for medically-necessary imaging services that were in contravention of the Canada Health Act, and moved virtually all MRI and CT services back into the public system. Alberta has since built public capacity and cracked down on the practice of extra-billing.

Premier Wall is openly enthusiastic about continuing to explore pay-per-service health care delivery in Saskatchewan. His concept of health care delivery results in extra-billing and two-tier health; patients in greatest need wait longer while those who can afford it pay to receive priority treatment. His ideas are contrary to the principles of the Canada Health Act.

Prime Minister Trudeau wrote in his mandate letter to you, “The federal government must be an essential partner in improving outcomes and quality of care for Canadians.” You can achieve this goal by abiding the primary objective of the Canada Health Act to “facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers” and enforce the Canada Health Act.

Best regards,

Monika Dutt MD, CCFP, FRCPC

Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare


Enclosure: Wall continues to ignore evidence and the Canada Health Act

Princeton Health Care Team receives 2016 Award of Excellence

June 10, 2016

photo of ruddiman with team
Dr. Allan Ruddiman, Doctors of BC President, speaks with Dr. Ella Monro and Cherie Whittaker at the Awards Dinner held in Prince George on June 9.

The health care practitioners and professional staff at Cascade Medical Clinic and Princeton General Hospital have received the 2016 Award of Excellence from the Rural Coordination Centre of BC for their dedication and service to the residents of Princeton and Area. Dr. Ella Monro and Cherie Whittaker attended the Awards Dinner held on June 9 and received the award on behalf of the entire Princeton Healthcare Team.

The Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc) is an organization that links the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues with rural physicians, rural communities and the University of British Columbia, working to develop strong relationships between all facets of rural health care. The organization focuses on the coordination of initiatives and projects to bridge gaps between existing rural resources.

Each year, RCCbc and its partners recognize the good work of BC’s rural physicians through the Awards of Excellence in Rural Medicine. The criteria for this year’s award centred on “rural teams whose excellent work has substantially stabilized or improved the health and well-being of the community in the face of challenging situations.” SOHC nominated the Princeton Healthcare Team, believing that they were worthy candidates for this prestigious award.

Congratulations to our team and thank you for the award-winning service you provide to our community!

Art for Health

June 9, 2016

Susan & Marjorie
Local artist Susan Delatour (on right) and Marjorie Holland, President of the Princeton and District Arts Council, stand in front of a print by British artist David Hockney that was recently purchased as part of the Art for Health project.The print is one of three new artworks installed at Princeton General Hospital as part of the project to provide a more welcoming and healing space for patients in our community’s health care buildings. Artwork purchased with financial assistance of the Arts Council.
photo credit: Nienke Klaver

U.S. doctors call for Canadian-style healthcare system

May 25, 2016

The following article by Karen Palmer appeared in the May 24, 2016 issue of the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper:

In a dramatic show of physician support for deep health-care reform in the U.S., more than 2,200 physician leaders have signed a “Physician’s Proposal” calling for sweeping change.

The proposal, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, calls for the creation of a publicly financed, single-payer, national health program to cover all Americans for all medically necessary care.

If that sounds familiar, it should. These American doctors are calling for Canadian-style medicare. They want a decisive break from the expensive and inefficient private-insurance industry at the heart of the U.S. health-care system.

How ironic that at the same time U.S. physicians are calling for a single-payer health system like ours, Canada is in the midst of a legal battle threatening to pave the way for a multi-payer system resembling what has failed Americans.

What’s at stake? A trial about to begin in British Columbia threatens to make the Canada Health Act unenforceable.

The Canada Health Act is federal legislation that guides our health-care system. It strongly discourages private payment for medically necessary hospital and physician services covered under our publicly funded medicare plans. This includes out-of-pocket payments in the form of extra-billing or other user charges. Legislation in most provinces further prohibits private insurance that duplicates what is already covered under provincial plans.

If patients are billed for medically necessary hospital and physician care, the federal government is mandated to withhold an equivalent amount from federal cash transfers to provinces or territories violating the act.

At least that’s what supposed to happen.
Read more »

Similkameen Mental Health Project

May 19, 2016

The following is an invitation to participate in a research project conducted by The University of British Columbia and Interior Health:

We would like to invite you to participate in a research project focusing on mental health in older adults in the Similkameen Valley. We are asking you to take part in a focus/discussion group (1.5 – 2 hours in length) to discuss your experiences, services and supports that are working well, the gaps in mental health services available in your community, and what might help. You will receive $20.00 to help cover your travel costs.

You are invited to participate in the focus group if you:

  • are 50 years or older
  • have a mental health concern (you do not need an official diagnosis) or have a family member or close friend with a mental health concern
  • live in the Similkameen communities of Keremeos, Hedley, Princeton, or surrounding areas

Princeton Focus Group: Tuesday, June 7th 2016, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm at Princeton Family Services, 56 Kenley Avenue in Princeton.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information please contact: Tracy Janzen (Co-Investigator) at 250-878-3291 or email:


To become a member of SOHC, please
email the secretary.
Annual membership is $2.

SOHC Discussion Paper

Developing an Improved and Sustainable Health Care Model for Princeton, B.C
Support Our Health Care has released a discussion paper in order to get feedback from the community, politicians and professionals about the state of local healthcare and what the long term solutions should be.
Download PDF Here