A Williams Lake man is questioning the “stark difference” of health care resources available in the Cariboo versus the Okanagan.
“Is Interior Health ready to accept legal responsibility for their lack of action leading to preventable pain and suffering,” asks Ryan Plouffe in a written complaint he sent to Interior Health on March 8.
Responding to concerns raised by Plouffe, Kathy Doull, executive director for Interior Health West, Rural Acute and Community stated regional and local teams are “doing everything possible to recruit physicians and other health-care workers to Williams Lake and to all of our communities.”
Doull said Cariboo Memorial Hospital is experiencing the same shortage as facilities across the country.
“We offer deep gratitude to the amazing physicians and health-care staff who continue to provide services in Williams Lake despite the pressures they have faced,” she said.
Plouffe moved to the area last year with his wife, Kirsty Hopkins, and two children, Anabelle, seven, and Milo, five, after both he and his wife lived most of their lives in the Okanagan.
The couple came to Williams Lake to advance their careers but he was surprised when his family could not access the level of health care they were used to in the Okanagan.
“It’s a lot of travel and a lot of just uncertainty,” he said.
“I understand comparing the medical services in Williams Lake to those in the Okanagan Valley or Northern Health is a complicated web of economic, political, and social influences but when Interior Health’s difference in care between a place like Armstrong and Williams Lake (Armstrong being one third of the population of Williams Lake, with less nearby vulnerable communities) is so stark, just four hours drive away, it’s a telltale sign that in Williams Lake we pay a price for living outside of the Thompson-Okanagan boundaries,” said Plouffe in his complaint.
Their son had surgery for a congenital heart defect at two- years-old requiring regular checkups with a paediatrician, a condition Plouffe said could have been fatal if it were not caught through an outreach clinic in the Okanagan when they lived there.
Plouffe’s wife has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and recently had surgery for knee complications.
Plouffe himself suffers from diverticulitis, chronic venous insufficiency, and depression and anxiety. He deals with chronic pain.
They do not have access to a family doctor since they moved.
“Sitting in the Williams Lake ER for hours feels like near torture,” said Plouffe.
He was inspired to write the complaint after a city council discussion around needing more information on the situation from IH and asking for a meeting, which he found frustrating.
Council has since met with IH and was told an estimated 40 to 45 per cent of the local health authority population has no family doctor.
At their April 4, 2023 meeting, council directed staff to send a request to the health authority to establish an urgent primary care clinic in Williams Lake to help address the lack of access to primary care.
Doull at IH said in her statement IH works closely with other partners such as the local division of family practice and primary care networks to attract doctors to Williams Lake and to increase access to community family physician services as well as working with the city and regional hospital district chair on recruitment and retention.
Plouffe said his family is still enjoying the Cariboo, despite his concerns with health care, noting they appreciate the relationships with local First Nations in the community, the schools, and the local recreation centre.
“We’ve just been loving it, it’s just a great community.”