Rossland councillor wants improvements to rural emergency health services in the region
Coun. Kathy Wallace took a moment at the Oct. 22 regular council meeting in Rossland to reflect on “definite problems” that exist in rural health care, problems she identified as “another symptom in our province of small, rural areas not fitting the grid pattern of larger urban areas.”
Wallace is Rossland’s appointed director to the board of the regional district, and she is also on the board for the West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (WKBRH) in Trail. In early October, the WKBRH board toured the Slocan Community Hospital in New Denver and the Arrow Lakes Hospital in Nakusp.
“They were both really interesting little facilities: rural, remote, multipurpose,” Wallace said. “Both were operated by very competent and committed staff. They find very creative ways to meet the challenges and overcome the obstacles in trying to deliver quality health care.”
She expressed concern about remote facilities having their emergency services reduced, and gave Kaslo as an example: “Kaslo is an hour away from the Slocan Community Hospital, it’s two hours away from KBRH,” she said. “There are certainly some pretty considerable issues with emergency transportation from the various layers.”
“I’ve heard a few horror stories lately,” she continued, “of breakdowns in communication between dispatch in Kamloops, the BC Ambulance Service, and our local emergency response services, whether it’s medevac or ground transport.”
Wallace explained that the structure of the health system leaves her and other board members feeling unable to address problems, and rural residents with few options to voice their concerns.
“As a member of the hospital district board it’s really frustrating because our mandate is only for capital. Basically we collect taxation towards a capital list that is provided by IHA [Interior Health Authority],” she said. “But there is no elected, accountable, accessible body for the operation of health care or [to address] any of people’s concerns about health care. So on a regular basis we are the body that people come to with complaints.”
“The quality of health service in this province,” she began, but paused. “There are definitely some problems there. I definitely support finding some solutions.”
Coun. Jill Spearn asked, “Does the ombudsperson of BC deal with any of those kind of things? If there’s a disconnect province-wide, the ombudsperson is a catch-all for many things. As a solution, maybe that’s something?”
Spearn continued, “I don’t think you’re going to get the same levels of service in small, remote communities as you would if you lived in Trail, BC, right by the regional hospital.”
“Everyone wants the best in health care,” she said, “but the reality of it is you choose where you live (or you live where you live) and a whole bunch of those services are either extremely poor, or just sufficient and adequate, or they’re quite good.”
“I do agree,” Wallace repied, “but you also need to realize it’s not always a matter of where you want to live. It’s a matter of where you have to, to go to work. In Nakusp for example, 80 per cent of the traffic through that hospital in the summertime is tourists. In Kaslo you have loggers, you have miners, you have people there working. And they sometimes need emergency service.”