We’re A Hole, So No Hospital?


April 24, 2012 Dawn Johnson’s ‘Current Comment
Similkameen News Leader
Copyright 2012 Bengel Publishing Inc.
Used with Permission

Princeton’s lack of emergency services has been in the news recently, with the result that I learned there is more to the story out there than broadcasted.

A friend of mine contacted me by telephone to relate her experience with an Interior Health Authority (IHA) employee. She was so upset by her conversation with this employee that she felt I should hear about it.

She spoke casually to the IHA employee about the plight of people in Princeton and their lack of physicians. She told me this was the reply: “Well, if people choose to live in a little hole like Princeton where doctors don’t want to go…They should move to the city.”

My friend, who lived here for years when we had a real hospital and a full complement of physicians, gave the IHA employee a blast about how it was the policy of IHA to reduce the Princeton hospital to the point where physicians cannot truly be physicians. She told him of the removal of surgical facilities and maternity facilities, and she admitted she became much more angry because of his attitude. She reminded him that people who lived in Princeton had their hospital gutted by IHA.

I became angry as she told me of this conversation, simply because I have lived through all of this hospital history. As she told me of the conversation with an IHA employee, I was reminded of the fact that nobody is telling the real story about our hospital, and the real story is being lost through the attitude that we have chosen to live in a place without proper hospital services. The attitude says it is our fault we live in this “hole” when we could have chosen to live in a city. Past hospital history has been lost, even though it was little more than a decade ago when local residents could have surgery done here by a team of physicians who had the right facilities, and pregnant women did not have to travel outside Princeton to have a baby.

This history is not limited to Princeton. This is the story of small towns all over British Columbia, and perhaps all over Canada.

What really angered me most about the attitude of the IHA employee was that it reflected a common attitude toward small towns like Princeton, Merritt, and many others. These are resource towns. These are the towns where mines, natural gas, oil, fishing, forest industry, and ranching are the life blood of the economy. People live where they work, for the most part. If you work in the forest industry, you are likely to live in a small town. You are not going to find ranchers living in downtown Penticton, and you are not going to find natural gas wells sprouting up in Vancouver. Resource communities exist because that is where the resources are. This is what rural British Columbia is all about.

These “little holes” communities produce the wealth that feeds the cities. Vancouver grew because of the export of lumber and minerals, and without those resources flowing outward, it would still be a small town itself. Kamloops grew because of ranching and the forest industry. Prince George grew because of the forest industry. Vernon grew because of agriculture, and so did Kelowna. The Okanagan grew because of climate, but there was a time when there was a sawmill in every Okanagan town, and most of these towns were small and surrounded by orchards.

What has happened to our hospital is the direct result of a policy of centralization of services. What we once had was taken away from us. At the same time, we know there are young people who were trained to become physicians and would take a job anywhere, but our Ministry of Health is not making it possible for them to work.

So, we who produce the wealth of our economy are once more given the dirty end of the stick, and the places we live are called “little holes”. I think it is time we fight that attitude any way we can. Does anybody out there have any bright ideas?

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