‘The people of the North Island have really been let down’

We would like to comment on the excellent letter in the Campbell River Mirror from Vivian Hermansen Re: not enough transparency from government and VIHA.

Her letter referred to challenges relating to nurses as well as reductions in local pathology services while complimenting the Campbell River Mirror and Marissa Tiel for reporting on these issues.

It is well known that our hospital is overcrowded and understaffed which has been problematic for nurses and other staff as well as for patients and their families. When our new hospital was being planned we were informed that it was to be designed for 50 years into the future. Many people raised the concern that 95 beds would not be sufficient. We all knew our new state-of-the-art hospital would be too small the day it opened.

Our Campbell River Hospital is running over census by 130 per cent occupancy most days when it should be running at 85 per cent. How do we expect the hospital to continue for 50 years with this situation? Campbell River is the second-fastest-growing city on Vancouver Island and the 5th most overcrowded hospital in B.C. This overcrowding puts a huge strain on all the staff.

Although the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) denies that the level of pathology services has declined, in reality, it has declined since services were arbitrarily taken and centralized in Victoria without any consultation with the Campbell River lab. Those services are not taking place at our hospital which has left a void and caused longer wait times for lab results both in Victoria and in anatomical pathology. As well, due to the lack of funding, we are unable to hire a third pathologist for locum coverage. This has demoralized staff and made the Campbell River hospital lab dysfunctional.

We have sufficient proof from patients that the current contract does not work well for Campbell River as it puts patients at risk, especially urgent and emergent ones. This is the only hospital in B.C. with such a contract between a private, for-profit, pathology corporation – working in Victoria and Nanaimo VIHA hospital labs – with no presence in the North Island while we have qualified pathologists locally. There appears to be an obvious conflict of interest within this contract and we have asked for an independent enquiry into the contract between Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consultants Corporation (VICPCC) and VIHA. It is appalling that a private pathology corporation has been given the ability to grant work to Campbell River or take it away.

As of March 31st, 2020 the provincial Coroner Service also centralized the autopsy service to Victoria from Campbell River when we have well-qualified pathologists here who were providing that service. The taxpayers are now paying the hefty costs of transporting bodies to Victoria and back for autopsies.

The multitude of people of the North Island needs to be listened to. Someone needs to take responsibility and be accountable to fix the problems that VIHA has created.

While the focus was turned to the terrible COVID-19 virus, the Campbell River Lab issue slipped well under the radar and the contract in which hundreds of people expressed strong serious concerns was quietly extended for another year until March 31st, 2021. Form letters were previously sent by VIHA and the government responding to hundreds of people who wrote of their serious concerns that when the contract expired on March 2020 the contract would be reviewed and decisions made. There was no review as promised. Now people are receiving the form letter response again that when the contract expires on March 31st, 2021, the contract will be reviewed.

The people of the North Island have really been let down. VIHA has caused significant damage to our lab, eroding faith and trust in our public health care system. In the meantime, our Campbell River Lab staff valiantly struggle on doing the best they can. We thank the lab staff, doctors, all the other hospital staff and all the essential workers during this difficult time. You are the people in whom we do have abundant faith and trust!

Lois Jarvis, Richard Hagensen and Joanne Banks,

on behalf of Citizens for Quality Health Care