The Inequality of Living on northern Vancouver Island

Wouldn’t it be nice, if we received the same services and opportunities as those who live in the greater Victoria area?

I have had the opportunity to live in many places within British Columbia and decided over 30 years ago to spend my golden years living in Campbell River.

During those years I have noticed a significant change and transformation of the demographics for Campbell River, in such that it is becoming more and more evident we are becoming a retirement community, with just a side order of fishing, mining and forestry.  Once our city council members stop wasting their time, and ours, in being toxic they need to move forward on how Campbell River will exist without the mills and industries that were… but I digress because that is a whole other issue.

My concerns lie around the inequality for residents living north of the Malahat.  Campbell River is the halfway point for Vancouver Island.  As everyone living here knows, we are about three hours from Victoria and three hours from Port Hardy.  Most residents north of Campbell River come here to utilize a wide abundance of services that may not be available or provided on the northern part of the Island. This allows Campbell River to be the gateway to the north and yet organizations such as the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) fail to realize or acknowledge that.

The population of Vancouver Island is 765,849 and of that only 359,991 (47 per cent) live south of the Malahat. When the majority of the islands population lives north of the Malahat, why is it that Campbell Riverites need to travel three hours (or those in Port Hardy have to travel six hours) south to utilize necessary health services? Why is it that we cannot be provided the same equality or funding that VIHA provides south of the Malahat?  In particular, hospice services for end of life.  According to a June 2010 press release on VIHA’s website, the Victoria Hospice would be provided a seven year contract of $20 million dollars (this equates to $2.8 million a year), whereas, according to a March 2011 press release, the other nine hospices on the island would only received a mere $11,700 each.  Now does that seem fair to you?  Should those of us outside of the greater Victoria area not have the same opportunities to stay close to family members and loved ones when our time is near?

A number of years ago Campbell River Hospital had two designated palliative care beds.  These beds were put back into general use due to over crowding at that hospital. We now have a new 95-bed hospital on the horizon and again with no concession or promise of palliative care beds.  I have heard that VIHA has promised that there will be 42 “end” of life beds across the Island and that those beds will be in designated to extended care facilities.  According to a news article I recently read in the Comox newspapers; Comox and Campbell River will receive only four tertiary beds and eight hospice beds for the north island. But VIHA will not come out and state where these beds will be located – Comox or Campbell River or both.  With Campbell River as the gateway to the north, and dealing with the largest geographical area, it would be an utter shame if we ended up without, again!  In looking at the Stats Canada numbers, it shows that Campbell River has approximately 34 per cent of its population age 55 and over, and this does not take into account the communities north of us or Quadra and Cortes Islands, all of whom utilize Campbell River health and hospice services.

Wouldn’t it be nice, if we received the same services and opportunities as those who live in the greater Victoria area? And, wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t pitted against and have to compete against the needs of the Comox Valley?

Dale Martel

Campbell River