Protect Our Hospital Services

According to Dr David Robertson of Island Health, transferring the consultation of clinical pathology samples from Campbell River to specialists in Nanaimo and Victoria was a significant improvement. He insists the turnaround time on lab results is consistent with, or better than, when those services were provided in Campbell River. Dr. Aref TabarsiI, senior general pathologist at the Campbell River hospital, 75 doctors, the Campbell River Hospital’s surgeons, lab technologists, assistants and board of directors all disagree. Campbell River’s City Council, the Regional Hospital Board and the laboratory staff demand that local pathology services be restored – but neither Island Health or the Ministry of Health are responding. Two hundred citizens came to hear more at the Citizens for Quality Health Care/Council of Canadians Town hall meeting ‘Protect Our Hospital Services’ held in the Campbell River Sportsplex on Sunday, Feb 9, 2020. 

Standing Room Only

The Testy Tubes (Joanne Banks and Rich Hagensen) singing ‘The Lab Song’ at the start of the Feb. 9th ‘Protect Our Hospital Services’ Town Hall – courtesy Rich Hagensen

People were lining up against the walls because there weren’t enough seats. Dr. Aref TabarsiI, senior general pathologist at the Campbell River hospital , Dr. Peter Olesen, plastic surgeon, Richard Hagensen from the Council of Canadians and Lois Jarvis of Citizens for Quality Health Care were among the speakers. There were also presentations and stories from the audience.

“The focus of this is trying to get our clinic pathology back in Campbell River because it has affected turnaround time for lab specimens that now have to go to Victoria to be processed. It has affected people’s health here, not only in Campbell River but the whole North Island because our hospital services the whole North Island – including Quadra and Cortes too,” said Richard Hagensen, Council of Canadians, Campbell River Chapter.

protect our hospital services

Encouraging People to Speak Out

“We’re encouraging people to exercise their democratic right to speak out.”

Hundreds of people have signed letters to MLAs Claire Trevena (North Island) and Ronna Rae Leonard (Courtenay-Comox) Adrian Dix (BC’s  Minister of Health). 

“Our MLA, Claire Trevana filed a petition in the legislature last fall. There were 2,500 signatures gathered in a very short time period. We could have got more, but wanted to get into the fall legislature on time,” said Hegensen. 

Origins Of The Dispute


Lois Jarvis, of Citizens for Quality Health Care, outlined the origins of the dispute, “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 Tabarsi told the Campbell River Mirror that after the private corporation was given the contract for the island’s clinical pathology services in 2014, they “subcontracted his lab to perform the same services he previously carried out – but for half the money.” 

“The lab was still able to function quite well until April 1, 2019, when the private corporation took the remaining pathology related funding from the Campbell River lab, which has actually crippled our lab. The Pathologists can no longer hire a third pathologist to relieve them when they are away,”  said Jarvis.


Response To Conflict of Interest Charge

Dr Robertson replied to the conflict of interest issue, “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.”

Lack of Personal Contact 

Jarvis mentioned another problem, “Lab techs used to be able to speak to the pathologist in their own lab to get confirmations and discuss cases. Now they are required to take digital pictures of slides and email them to Victoria. They get diagnosis on the phone. So the personal contact is gone.”



Jarvis said Island Health will probably bring the same program to Comox Valley Hospital lab when their pathologist’s contracts come up next month. 

“There is some good stuff happening in the hospitals too, but this is not a good move and it seems like Island Health and the Ministry of Health are not willing to take a second look at this,” said Hagensen. 

Lois Jarvis used three words to sum up Island Health’s new system by saying, “it’s not working.”

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