Frustration mounting with access to health services

The chief of staff at the Golden Hospital is among those in the local medical community who has had enough.

When he submitted his letter to The Golden Star (Apr. 8 issue), Jean-Gaston DesCoteaux, chief of staff at the Golden and District Hospital, admits he had reached his breaking point.

The letter, which details the gaps in Goldenites’ access to healthcare services created a whirlwind of discussion online, and DesCoteaux believes that awareness can only help going forward.

“Make your voice heard. I was hoping, and I think it worked, to encourage people not to just sit back and take it because we are trying to fight for them,” he said.

Much of DesCoteaux’s concerns have arisen because of inter-provincial barriers. World-class healthcare facilities are just three hours away in Calgary, but many locals are being sent to Kelowna and even as far as Vancouver for treatment that they could be getting much closer to home.

“With regionalization…services were pulled away from here and the valley towards Kelowna. We compensated by shifting…or expanding our referral patterns towards Calgary because it made more sense. For a while Calgary was able to handle that but I guess they’re hitting capacity issues also so more and more often they’re saying no,” DesCoteaux explained.

Those sorts of hurdles have become such significant barriers that DesCoteaux has even seen some Golden patients decline to make the trip, essentially refusing treatment because of travel expenses and overall inconvenience.

DesCoteaux isn’t alone among the medical community in this fight, as longtime local physician Dr. Trina Larson-Soles has also stepped up and voiced her opinion on this issue.

“Could we do better? Well, first someone would have to decide that rural people really do deserve the same level of care and actively work to overcome these barriers.  Better yet, let us provide more services in our rural community whenever practical to alleviate the need for travel in the first place,” Larson-Soles wrote in an e-mail.

B.C. has billing agreements in place with every province in Canada, and according to the Ministry of Health, improvements to the relationship between B.C. and Alberta are being worked on.

“B.C. is working to put in place an agreement with Alberta to streamline processes and eliminate the need for B.C. patients to apply and get confirmation of MSP funding before booking a scan or treatment. However, it is important to note that it is up to the receiving hospital or physician to accept a patient and the medical system in Alberta is also likely facing high demand,” the Ministry said through a spokesperson.

For now, there is a Travel Assistance Program in place between the Ministry and a number of private transportation carriers, which ranges from 30 to 100 per cent off regular fares for those who must travel for non-emergency, physician-referred specialist care.

However, both DesCoteaux and Larson-Soles believe that the program remains problematic.

“I checked with colleagues and the travel assistance is rarely used. I’ve never heard of anybody using it. The only public transport out of Golden is Greyhound. Plus, there’s no social service staff to speak of to assist people through the maze of bureaucracy,” DesCoteaux said. “Even if transport is partially paid to go to Vancouver, it doesn’t change the fact that you have to take the bus to get there.”

“They do not reimburse the patient for private travel, which is often more economical.  Nor do they cover accommodation or meals. Twelve plus hours on the bus is hard for a healthy person,” Larson-Soles said.

DesCoteaux stressed in both his original letter and in interviews for this story that he understands that Golden can’t have expensive offerings such as PET scans and MRI machines, and that those and other specialized equipment and treatments are always going to be centralized in major centres. But that doesn’t mean that Goldenites should be left out in the cold.

“There’s patients that just decide that they’re not going to go for treatment. I used to work in Calgary and most of your work is around diagnosing patients, deciding what to do with them…here most of your work is figuring out how you are going to get them the tests that they need and how you are going to get them treatment.”

In the end, it’s not just patients that are affected. Part of working in the field of medicine is delivering bad news, but when the bad news comes with even more bad news, it leads to frustration for both patients and doctors alike.

“We’re all frustrated, there’s no question…(I want) the public to know that we are on their side and we equally as frustrated as they are with the lack of services and we want nothing more than to be able to offer more to the patients here,” said DesCoteaux.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Your Columbia River Revelstoke candidates; Nicole Cherlet (NDP); Samson Boyer (Green) and Doug Clovechok (BC Liberal). The polls are closed and ballots being counted. (File photo)
BC VOTES: Clovechok preliminary winner with 52 per cent of the vote

35 of 77 polls have reported and The Canadian Press is calling Clovechok winner

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Most Read