Mayor Campsall chews out Interior Health

Donation refusal, lack of services cited in criticism

District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall gave an intense and impassioned earful to Interior Health (IH) acute services director Peter Du Toit about program funding in the community at an April 15 council meeting.

Campsall said IH “continually puts up barriers” to local health-care needs and residents are tired of being treated like “second-hand citizens.”

“I am offended by it, and I know the community is offended by it.”

Du Toit appeared before council at a committee-of-the-whole meeting to provide an update on IH service delivery to patients in the South Cariboo.

District Councillor Ralph Fossum opened the proverbial can of worms when he asked why IH has continually refused a $230,000 donation for funding a local urologist – on its own enough to cover the equipment costs and about two years of operations.

The community really needs this type of specialist, so many see it as a “no brainer” to accept the South Cariboo Health Foundation’s (SCHF) generous offer to fund it, he explained.

Du Toit said it has looked at this “high-profile” proposal in its 2014/15 financial plans and will “very definitely” review it again for 2015/16 – but there is simply no available operating funds from the ministry for “new programs.”

Campsall was quick and forceful in pointing out the program is “not new” and had been in place locally before IH cancelled it, which “upset” the community.

“[IH] does not have a good name in this community … this program needs to be reinstated. We’ve got an organization offering to pay for operating and IH is putting up another wall.”

Du Toit clarified that a program was here formerly, but it had limited ministry funding that was used up. He added that is also the problem with donations that will dry up down the road.

The mayor said since IH can’t guarantee programs down the road either, it should reconsider or even match local funding so a urology program could run for four to six years.

IH is “looking a gift horse in the mouth” by turning it down, and the community is “not going to go away” on this issue, he added.

SCHF director Chris Nickless asked if two years’ operational funding isn’t enough, how much longevity would IH want to secure.

Du Toit replied he could not answer that, but while the health authority “appreciates” the offer, programs have better success in the long term when it funds them internally, so IH will no longer depend on donated operational money for programs, which has “not gone well” in the past.

After the meeting, Fossum noted Du Toit’s presentation highlighted the Ministry of Health’s position is that specialists need to be made more available to rural patients – exactly what this issue is all about.

SCHF chair Mary Shennum added it is mostly local seniors and those in Williams Lake and the Chilcotin who need these services and now must travel to Kamloops since the former, shared Cariboo program ended.

It was a local grassroots effort that found new urologists willing to participate and then raised the funds to get them here, she notes.

“The community gave us all this money. It would be lovely if IH could recognize how important that is, and work with us.”