(Editor’s note: The following article mentions matters of concern to residents of the entire Greater Campbell River Health Area, which includes Cortes, Quadra and other Discovery Islands.)
Island Health has long been ignoring North Island concerns about the manner in which consultations for clinical pathology samples were transferred to Nanaimo and Victoria. Seventy-five doctors and dozens of lab technologists and assistants in Campbell River made their opposition known. The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District Board has been seeking to opt out since November 2019 and at its last meeting before COVID struck requested the area’s original pathology services be reinstated. Two Comox Valley pathologists, Dr. Chris Bellamy and Dr. Wayne Donn, recently tended their resignations because of ‘differences with Island Health’. They will be leaving on August 23rd, 2020. Now Citizens for Quality Health Care (CFQHC) is calling for an independent enquiry into the changes at the Campbell River Hospital Lab, which also serves outlying areas like Cortes, Quadra and the rest of the Discovery Islands.
In a joint press release, Lois Jarvis, Richard Hagensen and Joanne Banks of CFQHC explained:
“To date, Minister Dix has not addressed the concerns sent to him by hundreds of letter writers and by thousands of people signing a petition requesting that:
- 1. Funding be provided for the Campbell River Hospital for three pathologists.
- 2. Clinical pathology be reinstated to Campbell River Hospital.
- 3. An independent enquiry into the apparent conflict of interest between Island Health and Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consultants Corporation (VICPCC) be conducted.”
Island Health responded that it “is committed to North Island residents continuing to receive timely results to pathology testing. Ensuring equitable access to sustainable, high quality and specialized pathology services is a priority. It is also a priority for Island Health to understand the impact of decisions and ensure patient care is not adversely affected. When concerns are raised, the circumstances are reviewed to ensure quality care is being provided.”
Alleged Conflict of Interest
In a previous interview Jarvis explained, “In 2014 Vancouver Island Health Authority (now Island Health) entered into a contract with a group of pathologists at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, in Victoria, who had formed a private corporation. There appears to be a conflict of interest because one of the major shareholders in the private corporation was also the department head of VIHA, and signed the contract on behalf of VIHA. They lobbied the government, got the contract and without consultation services were taken from the Campbell River Hospital and from the Comox Valley Hospital lab.”
Dr David Robertson of Island Health claims this is not a problem, “Within Island Health, we recognize when we negotiate any contracts with any group, the leadership within that specialty is necessarily going to be someone who will be affected by the contract that we negotiate. We are confident, in recognizing that we ensure that conflict never becomes real. That particular potential conflict has been investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and they expressed no concern about it.”
Without Any Consultation
“This was done without any consultation whatsoever. It has created a lot of damage to the Campbell River Hospital Lab, putting patients, especially urgent and emergent, at risk due to longer turn around times in both clinical and anatomical pathology results. This was an abominable way to treat all these people and it was and continues to be with Island Health’s blessing,” protested Jarvis, Hagensen and Banks.
Island Health cites a study of 1,300 samples as proof “the turnaround time for clinical pathology lab results from Nanaimo and Victoria are consistent with or better than the turnaround time when these lab results were provided in Campbell River.”
Opponents of the change mention numerous examples to the contrary.
Last year Dr. Bellamy told Decafnation, “The public should recognize how integral a laboratory is to a hospital. If you don’t have a functional lab, you don’t have a proper acute care hospital.”
Staff Morale At All Time Low
CFQHC alleges that staff morale at the hospital is at an all time low.
“The problems are not going away and are continuing to worsen as our Campbell River Hospital is running over census with 130 percent occupancy most days. Campbell River is the second fastest growing city on Vancouver Island and the fifth most overcrowded hospital in B.C. The longer the issues go without being resolved the worse the situation will become. This lab is currently not sustainable.”
“The well qualified expertise and service the Campbell River pathologists have provided for many years served the North Island very well until services and funding were arbitrarily taken away from our Campbell River Hospital Lab causing much damage and dysfunction. Senior general pathologist Dr. Aref Tabarsi is an excellent pathologist who cares deeply about his work. He is highly respected by his staff; colleagues, and the community. He puts patients and staff first. He has integrity and is empathetic; hard working, and honest. This community has nominated Dr. Tabarsi for the “Health Care Hero Of The Year” award. We would not even have a hospital now in Campbell River were it not for the advocacy of Dr. Tabarsi!”
Top photo credit: Feb 9, 2020, CFQHC Townhall meeting in Campbell River