Local Health Advocates take Provincial Steps

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Andrea DeMeer
Spotlight Staff

May 17

Princeton is earning its spot on the health care map with local advocates taking a leadership role in the newly founded BC Rural Health Network.

Ed Staples, president of Support our Health Care, is directing the fledgling network, which already includes 10 other communities from Salt Spring Island to Trail and includes Nelson, Sicamous and Ashcroft.

“I guess the main reason is that rural British Columbians, for the most part, have been underserved by the health care system and that’s been a gradual erosion of services,” said Staples in an interview with The Spotlight.

“Rural communities have seen the services that are available to them centralized and regionalized and as a result that’s created all sorts of problems that people living in urban communities have no idea about.

Transportation, a chronic shortage of doctors, and longer wait periods for treatment are the common problems being experienced in small communities, said Staples.

“Those kinds of issues are things that we all share and what we are hoping to do is band together and provide rural BC a strong advocacy voice.”

While some of the solutions that rural communities would like to see implemented require provincial policy change, the network is also proving to be useful for sharing strategies that can be applied locally.

“Something that works well in one community might not have been thought of somewhere else,” said Staples.

Examples of Princeton models that are generating interest in other communities are the Love a Locum campaign, and the visiting specialist program, he added.

The network has been joined by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, a physician driven organization that has already provided funding and resources for promotional materials and a website.

The BC Health Coalition also recently established a relationship with the Rural Health Network.

“So it’s growing quite quickly and it’s growing in a very important way.”

The network members have so far just met using teleconference, but will have their first face-to-face gathering at the end of the month.

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