Gabriola Health Care Society 2006 Tax Creditable Donations

Gabriola Sounder, Monday, December 18 2006

We intended to provide this information at our Town Hall meeting last month, but unfortunately weather forced the postponement of that to January 7, 2007, 2:00 PM, at the Community Hall.

If in the meantime, if you wish to make a contribution to the Society and obtain a credit against your 2006 Income Tax, please prepare a cheque payable to the Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation, put "Gabriola Health Care Society" on the memo line or on the back of the cheque, and mail it to 1200 Dufferin Crescent, Nanaimo, BC V9S 2B7 before 2007. To obtain a receipt please include your name and address, and ensure that the contribution is for at least $20.00.

Non-tax creditable donations may be made by sending a cheque payable to the Gabriola Health Care Society to PO Box 269, Gabriola, V0R 1X0, or by making a deposit to the Society's account at the Gabriola branch of the Coastal Community Credit Union.

For further information, please see our WEB site at

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Ingrid's lights, even more hopeful this year

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, December 18 2006

Ingrid Versteeg has added about six thousand lights to her magnificent and very popular outdoor display - the Lights of Hope Festival - this year, bringing the total to more than 36,000.

Eighty per cent of the display is put up every year and she was finished that monumental task by Halloween. However, she has had to do her rounds through wind, rain, snow and deer, ever since.

She began her annual tradition back in Ontario to celebrate and show gratitude for another year of life after surviving cancer. And last year her husband Francisco Asimbaya also beat the disease.

2006 has brought another good reason to share her must-see Lights of Hope Festival: the plans of the Gabriola Health Care Society.

She will be accepting donations for the GHCS from folks on Boxing Day from 4 to 8 pm. And she agreed to turn her lights on again on December 30th, when society volunteers will be there to hand out information and answer questions.

A family illness requires her to be in Ontario just before Christmas, so her festival will be somewhat shorter this year. Like other Gabriolans she didn't have to be told twice that the island needs improved healthcare.

"My sister is a physician in Ontario and I know first-hand about the tremendous commitment and stress of doctors on-call," she explained. "And earlier this year a visitor here had a terrible allergic reaction to a wasp sting. We were lucky that it became severe during the day when we could get to hospital in Nanaimo."

This is the fifth year that she has staged her Lights of Hope Festival on Gabriola. The first year she contacted BC Hydro and requested an additional 200 amp service. "Not enough acreage," she was told.

"What about the danger of fire? I've got 20,000 lights," she responded. "Lady, no one has that many lights," she was told by an employee who smelled a marijuana grow-op.

Impressed when seeing her light collection for itself, BC Hydro recanted. Poles were installed and trees limbed. Francisco built an impressive storage area with an extra panel for the far-flung areas in the forest where lights hang high in the trees.

Three years ago she began inviting the public and two years ago when the Sounder put her on the front page, at least 1,000 folks showed up, donating $2,400 as they marveled at the wonders that await behind an unforgettable rambling driftwood fence, up the brightly-lit driveway, running through shrubs and salal, waving in the wind in cedar and fir trees, glistening from an arbour that welcomes the visitor over a bridge, past a fence that Francisco put together from unwanted skis at GIRO, to a warm fire and welcome in a gazebo with a rooster on top.

She has a ladder with a six foot platform which helps, but the poles that Francisco made for her are still essential, in the high spots. She makes drawings and plans from year to year, of places where she wants more lights.

"The wind is still my worst enemy; deer can create havoc near the ground and delivery trucks sometimes take out a few branches, along with some lights.

"I have invested more than $10,000 by now, and always have spare strings," Versteeg continued. "I buy most of the lights on sale just after Christmas.

"It's magical, almost like fireworks," she told the Sounder, when asked. "Why bother?" "I want people to enjoy my artistic creation, to lift their spirits, see the look on their faces and hear them say that it is wonderful that something like this exists on Gabriola.

"Donations also motivate me and this year I hope we set a record for our healthcare society," she concluded.

Don't miss the Lights of Hope Festival, from 4 to 8 pm, on December 26th and 30th, at 245 Ardry Road (continue up Norwich Road hill from Berry Point Road, turn right at Clarendon Road, and park on Ardry).

And please leave your dog at home, or in the car.

Ingrid is also hosting the elderly and those who can't walk up the driveway on December 20th. Call ahead at 247-0115 on that day.

Bring the kids, visitors and neighbours and don't forget cash for a donation.

If in the meantime, if you want to contribute to GHCS and obtain a credit against your 2006 Income Tax, make out a cheque to the Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation, put "Gabriola Health Care Society" on the memo line or on the back and mail it to 1200 Dufferin Crescent, Nanaimo, BC, V9S 2B7, before 2007.

To obtain a receipt please include your name and address, and ensure that the contribution is for at least $20.

Non-tax credit donations may be made by sending a cheque payable to the Gabriola Health Care Society to PO Box 269, Gabriola, V0R 1X0, or by making a deposit to the society's account at the Coastal Community Credit Union.

For further information, see the website: The E-mail address is:

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Healthy choices

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, December 11 2006

That's Wild Rose Farm and Garden Centre's Annette Sweeney tucked way in a seasonal cornucopia. She had husband Merv are generously donating 10 per cent of all sales of Christmas trees and gift items, poinsettias and pottery to the Gabriola Health Care Society (GHCS) up until Christmas.

As you can see there is a wide selection to choose from and a new shipment of pottery at the nursery.

Also donating to GHCS this year is Ingrid Versteeg, whose Lights of Hope Festival is a seasonal must-see on the island.

Don't miss the spectacular show of more than 35,000 lights, on Boxing Day, December, 26th, from 4:30 to 8 pm., at 245 Ardry Road (continue up Norwich Road hill from Berry Point Road, turn left at Clarendon Road, and park on Ardry.

The GHCS will have information at both locations, including how to make tax deductible donations.

Please note: the rescheduled first Town Hall Meeting is Sunday, January 7th, at the Community Hall, from 2 to 4:30 pm.

Fred Geater, volunteer president of the society, said; "We continue to make very good progress and look forward to making presentations, answering questions on the possibilities that we are studying and also asking for volunteers for a variety of work groups which are being formed.

"We want to thank the community for ongoing interest and widespread support," he added.

The GHCS website will provide information on an ongoing basis. Log onto:

The E-mail address for anyone who has questions is:

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Town Hall rescheduled as GHCS progresses

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, December 4 2006

The volunteer members of Gabriola Health Care Society (GHCS) were among the most disappointed when the weather and road conditions forced the cancellation of a Town Hall meeting on November 26th.

However, they are encouraged after an initial meeting with officials of Vancouver Island Health Care Authority (VIHA).

And the Town Hall has been rescheduled for Sunday, January 10th at the community hall, from 2 to 4:30 pm.

Margaret Litt, secretary of the society - who was prepared to make a PowerPoint presentation at the meeting - said: "Many Gabriolans have approached me to share their enthusiasm and support for the GHCS.

"We are grateful to the local newspapers for continuing to help us to get the message out and I look forward to our upcoming meeting in January, when we can discuss our plans and other information in greater detail."

On Friday, November 24th, Litt, GHCS president Fred Geater and Dr. Daile Hoffmann met with representatives of the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA): Victoria Power-Pollit, director of Primary Health Care and Chronic Disease Management, and Grant Hollett, director, Planning and Community Engagement.

Participants described the meeting as very friendly and open and that VIHA was impressed with the GHCS presentation and information that the Gabriolans provided.

"We have the same goals and are now reading from the same page," Geater reported. "VIHA representatives indicated that they are keen to do what they can to help and want to participate in the process, including taking part in a future Town Hall Meeting."

At the meeting with the health authority, the GHCS was able to present its goals and plans, which are well within VIHA's priorities in Primary Health Care.

"We have every indication that the authority is keen on working with Gabriolans to enhance this on our island," said Geater.

The authority's definition of PHC is: "The range of services individuals and communities receive on a regular, ongoing basis in order to stay healthy, get better, manage ongoing illness or disease, and cope with end of life."

At press time, the GHCS was constructing a website to provide information on an ongoing basis. Log onto:, which will become a clearing house for information. The E-mail address is

It will also be calling on volunteers for working groups which are being established to become involved in land, site and building requirements, a "bridging" group to help ensure medical services are sustained and, of course, a hallmark of island life: fundraising.

As reported previously: all island residents are members in the non-profit, community based society. No fees will be charged and everyone will be able to vote for a board of directors and participate in public meetings.

The GHCS is developing a phased approach in a coordinated consultative process with the community to achieve its goals.

Currently, informal consultations are taking place to provide information to Gabriolans regarding healthcare goals and objectives. The Town Hall meeting will provide an opportunity to provide a project overview and engage in public discussion of these, as well as next steps.

Other Primary Health Care models in BC, and beyond, are being studied, along with funding opportunities and possible building sites, including such considerations as zoning, water, septic, etc.

Future goals include securing funding, establishing a board of directors and officers; formalizing building requirements, acquiring, constructing, or leasing a facility and securing medical and other equipment.

It will take some time and effort, but through community support and active involvement, GHCS is ultimately seeking to provide a facility and equipment to physicians, government health agencies and other appropriate users, as well as to provide administrative and other services.

Please see: "An informed off-island perspective on healthcare societies."

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An informed off-island perspective on health care societies

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, December 4 2006

The weather may have forced the cancellation of a first Town Hall meeting, but it also strengthened the resolve of the fledgling Gabriola Health Care Society to make a rescheduled public discussion - Sunday, January 10th - even more informative and helpful.

Bart Jessup, who was, and is, slated to moderate, spoke on behalf of the Gabriola Ratepayers Association, which is sponsoring and hosting the public information meeting and discussion on primary health care.

"Obviously the topic is important and the community wants to know more, so the meeting has been rescheduled," he said. "However, in the meantime, research is continuing on identifying a range of options to enhance health care on Gabriola.

"This should contribute to an even more informed "reality check", Jessup added.

Even before the volunteer GHCS was formed, fund-raising was started and there was speculation about everything from where a building would be located, to how many hours it would be open.

Fred Geater, president of GHCS, said: "Gabriolans should have the certain knowledge that nothing has been set in stone at this point, and we are hoping to recruit willing participants with great ideas, as well as volunteers."

One area of interest is the society itself, a subject that Sheila MacDonnell knows well.

She planned to drive down from Courtenay to participate and - weather permitting - will also attend the rescheduled meeting.

McDonnell played a key role in establishing and growing healthcare services on Denman and Hornby Island and will share her extensive knowledge and first-hand experience, not just as an administrator, but also as an advocate.

"My perspective goes beyond just providing medical services and a facility. It also includes community development," she said. "Obviously a place needs to be established. However, an organization should also be in place.

"Among other things, this organized society will seek and administer core funding; but it will also play a key role in improving the quality of community life, generally."

In the experience of other Gulf Islands, a broad perspective works best, she explained.

On Pender Island, for example, a community nurse is able to help carry some of the load of physicians who are on-call at night and on weekends. But the nurse is also able to help establish continuity, build all-important relationships, on- and off-island, as well as utilize talents and resources within the community.

Nurses - including nurse practitioners - provide information and education and a wide range of services, beyond the medical practice of physicians.

"The role of nurses is just one example. Island communities can't do it all, but we can explore what impacts our health, generally," said McDonnell. "And healthcare societies can find a balance, build consensus and local capacity."

"So much more is possible and can be facilitated because the community has opportunities to become more actively involved. Rather than just passively receiving VIHA and other funding, there are ongoing opportunities to discuss plans, search for solutions and build programs," she continued.

Here on Gabriola, MacDonnell suggested that the GHCS can work closely with People for a Healthy Community, with parents, teachers and students at the school, the Hope Centre/Gathering Place, the Commons, organizations such as the Lions, paramedics, the Fire Department, Emergency Social Services and more.

"If homelessness becomes a problem, or there is a need for improving home care, or providing addiction services, the society can bring groups, individuals, resources and funding together.

"The results can be truly amazing!" Sheila MacDonnell said.

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GHCS to hold first Town Hall Meeting

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 20, 2006

It's official, the name is the Gabriola Health Care Society (GHCS), short enough to not require an acronym, broad enough to encompass future initiatives for a wide variety of services that will help improve the health of this community.

Six of the founding members - who are reaching out to a rapidly growing number of individuals and organizations - have signed as applicants for incorporation, as reported in last week's Sounder.

Once again, all residents will be members in the non-profit, community based society. No fees will be charged and everyone will be able to vote for a board of directors and participate in public meetings.

All Gabriolans are invited to attend and take part in a first Town Hall Meeting in the Phoenix Auditorium, The Haven, on Sunday, November 26th, from 2 - 4:30 pm.

This first public information meeting and discussion is being sponsored by the Gabriola Ratepayers and Residents Association.

The date and time were chosen to accommodate the largest number of people as quickly as possible and the auditorium was generously offered by the Haven. The Community Hall was unavailable.

The newly formed society is seeking to improve existing healthcare, including the excellent work of our highly trained and dedicated paramedics. It has no expectations that a facility would be open 24/7, nor will it be funded by increased taxes. GHCS is carefully studying all options, including location, as well as services available on other islands.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues Fred Geater said: "The GHCS hopes people will come to the meeting with their concerns, suggestions, and most importantly with an open mind.

"Gabriolans should have the certain knowledge that nothing has been set in stone at this point, and we are hoping to recruit willing participants with great ideas, as well as volunteers," he added.

A major item on the agenda will be a proposal for a Gabriola Healthcare Facility - including essential features - and why that is important to everyone in the island's growing community.

Among the topics to be discussed are: what services are required initially, what others could be added over time and what factors are involved in determining the best location for such a facility.

Information that the GHCS has acquired on what services are available on other Gulf Islands and rural areas will also be shared.

Community members will also be advised on how they can become involved in this unique opportunity to benefit everyone in the community.

Every attempt will be made to provide answers to any questions that people have. And questions that remain unanswered will be noted and followed up on.

The GHCS stresses that this is an informal meeting, all will be heard and their opinions respected. Your concerns, ideas and support are essential to the ongoing success of this community owned and operated project.

Among those who will be at the meeting will be Sheila MacDonnell, who will share her personal knowledge and experience from many years in community development, about community health centres, general non-profit development issues and her perspective on healthcare on the Gulf Islands, including her eight years as the administrator of the Denman and Hornby Island Healthcare Society.

Please see: "On the line with Sheila MacDonnell."

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On the line with Sheila MacDonnell

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 20, 2006

During conversations about healthcare on the islands, the name Sheila MacDonnell has come up frequently. After several phone calls and E-mails, I have taken many pages of notes and she will be a welcome addition to the GHCS Town Hall Meeting, November 26th.

She enthusiastically endorsed the decision on the name of the Gabriola society, stressing health rather than medical care, and providing a focus for funding and administration, by representing the community, while working with health authorities and medical professionals.

"It is my experience that a broad perspective works best," she said. "Island communities can't do it all, but we can explore what impacts health.

"Rather than just treat individual problems and symptoms of an illness, we can look at the bigger picture and find a common solution, the need in the community for a physiotherapist, for example, X-rays, or counseling services. Perhaps a traveling clinic would be sufficient for some places.

"We have common problems but each island community also has unique needs," she explained. "And island residents are entitled to health care and have a legitimate right to have it provided close to home."

On Denman and Hornby, home, mental health, youth, family and other services are available through a two-island community society, which has added these to core services, consolidated them and provided administration, hired staff, issued charitable tax receipts, determined budgets, offered confidentiality, neutrality, integrity, and more.

If the fire department requires a defibrillator, a healthcare society receives donations. If a need for bicycle helmet program is perceived, there is somewhere to go. There's an organization that can manage assets, help put together all the pieces in such initiatives as emergency planning and keep minutes and records of meetings.

Island healthcare societies help establish ferry protocols, lobby on behalf of residents, establish invaluable contacts, build partnerships and bridges, set up support groups and create educational programs and health care promotion of everything from yoga to care giving.

Without them the Vancouver Island Health Authority has no one to give contracts to and there is no contact point for other funding sources; with them communities move faster and more successfully, find a balance, build consensus and local capacity, improve situations where part-time doctors and nurses set up periodically in a corner or basement of a community hall.

For example, if there is funding for a one-quarter position for addiction services and another for mental health, as well as a half-time position for a nurse, a healthcare society can find one person to do the job, full-time.

MacDonnell and others envision a network of healthcare societies and facilities on the Gulf Islands, separate but able to share information, solutions and resources, become a much louder squeaky wheel.

Gabriolans now have a starting point to determine what's next, as a community.

There's more, much more. Hear it for yourself at the first Town Hall Meeting of the Gabriola Health Care Society (GHCS) in the Phoenix Auditorium, at The Haven, on Sunday, November 26th, from 2 to 4:30 pm.

Bring along your questions, ideas, concerns, expertise, experience, enthusiasm. Keep in mind that this is and envisioning process as well as an opportunity for information. So, it is a good idea to include a notebook, as well.

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Health Care Meeting Sponsored by The Gabriola Ratepayers & Residents Association

Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 20, 2006

All Gabriolans are invited to a Town Hall Meeting to learn about a proposed Gabriola Health Care Facility on Sunday, November 26th at 2 - 4:30 pm at the Phoenix Auditorium, The Haven.

  • Why is a Primary HealthCare Facility important for all Gabriolans?
  • What is being proposed by the Gabriola Health Care Society?
  • How will we determine what services are required initially and in the long-term? What is involved in determining the best location?
  • What is available on other Gulf Islands and in other rural areas?
  • How can all Gabriolans become involved in this unique opportunity to benefit everyone in the community?

Get the answers to these questions and others that you may have. Your concerns, ideas and the support of the community are essential to the success of this community owned and operated project.

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GMMS [now GHCS] continues to make progress

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 13 2006

There is exciting news to report on the non-profit, community based initiative of a group of Gabriola residents to form a healthcare society. And there will be much more to come in the days ahead.

At a second meeting, last Tuesday evening, the group discussed the possibility of changing the proposed name in order to accommodate future broad-based health services. That discussion was set aside in order to prepare to meet with Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) officials on the need for a primary care clinic and to concentrate on an upcoming public information meeting.

Six Gabriola residents signed as applicants for incorporation of the Gabriola Medical Services Society [subsequently changed to Gabriola Health Care Society], on November 7th.

Tracie Der has been a pharmacist for 20 years, co-owner of the Gabriola Medicine Centre/Island Apothecary for 13 years, and the Nanoose Medicine Centre which opened earlier this year.

She has been active on Pharmacy Professional Practice committees, the former Health Outcomes Pharmacy group and frequently participates in health/drug research.

Tracie has also served in executive positions in the Chamber of Commerce, the school PAC, has been an Islander Day organizer and participates in many island groups and events.

Fred Geater is a retired bank manager with many years of volunteer service, from Rotary to Scouts, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Big Brothers and Crime Stoppers, which he founded in Nanaimo.

From 1984 to 1999 he was a member of the Nanaimo District Hospital Foundation and held the offices of treasurer and president.

Harvey Graham, a retired partner of the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, is currently treasurer of a number of Gabriola non-profit societies, including the Gabriola Island Community Hall Association and the Gabriola Residents and Ratepayers Association.

Dr. Daile Hoffmann graduated in Medicine at the University of Alberta and completed a residency in rural family medicine in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Prior to moving to Gabriola, she practiced medicine in Northern Ontario.

She is our only full time physician and, along with Dr. Bob Henderson, assists Gabriola's first responders and paramedics with critical calls.

Margaret Litt earned a Masters in Community Health and Epidemiology and for the past 10 years her career has focused on building collaborative health projects locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

She is currently Provincial Coordinator of the Infection Control Network, has been a public health advisor and senior epidemiologist for the federal government and has worked as a public and community health nurse.

Lawrence Spero is a former professor and academic administrator in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has served on the boards of a number of community health agencies, was on the steering committee of the Toronto Stroke Network and a founder of the Fragile-X Research Foundation of Canada.

Spero said: "In a review of the medical literature it is clear that appropriate stabilization of patients prior to their transfer to a hospital can greatly improve their outcome.

"Moreover such actions can reduce unnecessary use of hospital emergency services with advantages to both the patient and overall system costs," he added.

"I've witnessed, over the last decade or so, that the health care needs of Gabriolans are exceeding the capacity of both the health care providers and facilities," Tracie Der told the Sounder.

"It is becoming increasingly more difficult to attract and keep qualified professionals due to limitations that hamper their ability to provide the best care possible and the excessive demands for their services and time.

"Many times, I've had to refer patients to Nanaimo hospital or walk-in clinics for care that probably doesn't warrant tying-up emergency services, but couldn't be provided on Gabriola at the time," she added.

"The time and expense involved is exorbitant - both for the patient and the health care system - but alternatives were not available. Health care provided "locally" by caregivers who actually know the patient is superior to that provided in a larger, more "anonymous" centre," she said.

Fred Geater said: "I am very keen on the idea of a Primary Health Care Centre on Gabriola, partly because of personal experience.

"In 1994 I had a severe heart attack on what was then our undeveloped property," he explained. "My wife was unable to get medical help and drove me to the ferry. Ferry crew arranged for an ambulance on the Nanaimo side. It was well over an hour before I received medical care and I am fortunate to have survived.

"If there were a proper facility on Gabriola I could have been evaluated, stabilized, and perhaps less damage would have been done, not to mention the stress to our family," he added,

"With our population approaching 5000, Gabriolans need to take steps to ensure that loved ones are given the best medical care possible," Geater continued.

"A facility with the proper equipment and medicines to deal with serious health problems will attract Health Care Professionals to our community," he added.

This group is currently being advised by representatives of other communities which have highly successful non-profit primary health care facilities in place.

It is also drafting a constitution and formulating a budget in preparation of meetings with government agencies and others, and reaching out to other community members in order to present a proposal to the community.

At last week's meeting it was agreed that a working definition and long-term vision for Primary Health Care is: "comprehensive, seamless and locally accessible health care services delivered by a network of provider teams, integrated into a regional health care system that supports its population to stay healthy, get better, manage illness and disease, and cope with the end of life."

Over the weekend the group met with community members to work on a statement of intent for VIHA in order to determine what funding will be available from the health authority.

That will be a factor in a proposal being drafted to present to the community.

"We are listening to your concerns and finding answers to your questions; please be patient, we are volunteers in this non-profit, community based initiative," the group stated adding: "We are also encouraged and at times, almost overwhelmed, by support in the community."

Please see: "Gabriola Medical Services Society [subsequently the Gabriola Health Care Society]: a doctor's opinion."

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Gabriola Medical Services Society [subsequently the Gabriola Health Care Society]: a doctor's opinion

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 13 2006

Dr. Bob Henderson has been living on Gabriola for six years while practising medicine on Hornby Island, part-time.

When he is at home, he is one of two doctors who respond to emergency calls.

The Sounder asked him to share his unique perspective on island healthcare.

"From my arrival here I questioned the pattern in which many residents go off-island for routine care; for urgent care, virtually everyone also leaves, most often in an ambulance," he recalled.

"It is not a result of the lack of ability of the doctors here that this happens," said Henderson. "The reasons are: Gabriola doctors lack manpower, resources, including special medications and an equipped facility."

With the arrival of Dr. Daile Hoffmann and following the fund-raising and purchase of a Lifepak defibrillator by the community more than a year ago, healthcare on the island took a major step forward. For the first time, this more advanced equipment enabled our doctors to monitor and stabilize patients in acute health crisis.

"It also reawakened in the minds of many people in the community the need for a visioning of future healthcare," he noted.

"It is possible for our elders and those who are ill, including children, to find the comfort and reassurance in healthcare which allows them to continue to live in peace in their own homes and close to life-long friends and familiar "safe" surroundings.

"For example, on Hornby Island, with a population of 1,000, there are more than 30 residents who are over 80 years of age. They know that medical help and other services are close at hand if they need them."

He noted that across Canada there is renewed awareness about primary healthcare and the family doctors who provide most of that. New funding to support community initiatives has been promised.

Again he provided an example: the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is working on a five-year plan for healthcare and a result of that process is the document: "Primary Health Care Strategy."

"Unfortunately, Gabriola is being left out, because VIHA has historically played no significant role here," he said. "This fact was made evident when we were recently denied a potentially life-saving drug because this island does not have a trauma facility, such as those which exist on many other islands and in rural regions throughout the province through health authority funding.

"I strongly believe that the current situation on Gabriola represents a golden opportunity to demonstrate what government and the community can accomplish by working together to create a new vision for healthcare here," the doctor continued.

The basic foundation for this, he explained, is a well-planned primary care multidisciplinary facility, one that is designed to be efficient, economical, with easy ground floor access and room for the number of physicians and caregivers now required by our growing population.

A VIHA approved emergency room will be an essential element, as well as excellent ventilation, sound-proofing, special wiring and computer access, a large reception area, at least six examination rooms and multi-purpose rooms of various sizes.

With the community in charge, the facility would offer space for a team of doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, counsellors and others who would be attracted here to look after residents and visitors for many years to come.

"We must look to the island's future," said Henderson. "The non-profit, community based initiative of a group of Gabriola residents to form a healthcare society is not a mindless headlong dash toward an incredibly expensive project.

"What it is, in fact, is an attempt to awaken Gabriolans to what is possible in their healthcare futures and to set the mechanisms in place to achieve optimum goals," he added.

Dr. Henderson said: "The facility must be a building that is planned under the direction of those who know what is needed and should be in the control of the island community though a non-profit organization, as outlined in recent articles in the Sounder.

Through this community control and ownership, Gabriolans will be much more successful in recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals and in applications for grants and government funding, he advised.

As well, such an arrangement will allow our doctors and other healthcare professionals - who will have no financial interest in the building - to remain focused on the health of this community and be under less stress while doing so.

"With such a facility there is a probability that Daile and Dr. Verne Smith will be joined by a physician who has a great deal of emergency room experience as well as in family practice," Henderson reported.

"Through his initiatives it may also be possible to have X-ray equipment at a relatively low cost, but at enormous savings to the system and individuals, because minor fractures and their follow-up would also be treated here, in a small, dedicated room. X-rays could also be transmitted electronically to the hospital in Nanaimo," he added.

"Simple emergency lab work could also be done on Gabriola in a centralized facility, which is designed for expansion, when the community desires it," he continued.

"This is not "Starbucks", or some other form of urbanization, nor is it rocket science; but like any process which demands that we look to our future, it does require community vision and faith," concluded Dr. Bob Henderson.

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Gabriola Medical Services Society [now GHCS] to be formed

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 6, 2006

A group of community volunteers met on Thursday, November 2nd in a rented room in the Gabriola Commons to begin the process of incorporating a non-profit Gabriola Medical Services Society.

Everyone in the community will be a member of the society. No fees will be collected for this membership and everyone will be able to vote for a board of directors.

The purpose of the society is to operate as a charitable institution which will provide a primary health care facility on Gabriola, to acquire medical and other equipment for use in the facility, to make the facility and equipment available to physicians, government agencies and other users, to provide administrative and other services required for the operation and use of the facility, and to raise funds.

The operation and affairs of the society will be conducted with no financial gain to its members. Any profits or assets acquired will be used exclusively to advance its purposes. That provision is unalterable.

Should the society be disbanded or dissolved, its assets remaining - after payment of all debts and liabilities - will be refunded to the donors, or paid over and transferred to an organization having objectives similar to those of the society.

The above will take place under the direction, by resolution, of the members; another provision which is unalterable.

The bylaws of the Gabriola Medical Services Society are those set out in Schedule B of the BC Society Act.

The meeting was held because - in the opinion of those doctors who are responding to medical emergencies - the current situation is “unacceptable” and “unsustainable.”

Too many residents are not calling for the help they need after hours for fear of having to utilize the Nanaimo Harbour Patrol Vessel for transport to the emergency room at the regional hospital in the city.

Too many Gabriolans - including children and the elderly - are being discharged from those facilities in the middle of the night and, with no place to go, have to wait for the first ferry home.

Too many residents of this island are leaving emergency facilities before they receive treatment in order to catch the last ferry home.

Too many pregnant women are at risk by having to give birth in the back of an ambulance or other vehicle and too many hearts are stopping in places where life-saving stabilization is unnecessarily difficult.

A facility to stabilize patients for transport is urgently required.

Without that, this community is expecting too much of its physicians, who are responding to emergencies, as well as first responders and paramedics.

As well, the community is putting unnecessary strain on the system and existing facilities, because too many people, who can be treated on the island, are forced to go to Nanaimo at tremendous cost, including individual costs.

Although Gabriolans are blessed with medical services, these can, and must be improved in order to recruit and retain health care professionals and to avert a crisis, which include disasters and multiple casualties.

In short, to save lives.

However, this is not just about a building. Gabriola Medical Services Society will be dedicated to improving health care on the island generally, by duplicating community based not-for-profit models that are successful in rural communities throughout the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the province.

The immediate goal of the society is to formulate a proposal for the careful consideration of the community.

In order to accomplish this, it will be necessary to work up a budget, to provide community representation in upcoming preliminary meetings with physicians and VIHA and other officials, to study the best options for a site which does not require rezoning, but does provide easy access, and to utilize information from other communities, which is being generously offered.

The founding members of the society are volunteers who responded to a call in the Sounder to share their expertise to improve health care, which will benefit everyone on this island.

As you read this, these community volunteers are incorporating a society, of which you will be a member and working on a proposal for your consideration.

The response to this initiative and support for it has been in a word, "overwhelming"; You will be informed of any and all progress and more information will be forthcoming, within days.

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"Please, back up the truck!"

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, November 6 2006

I've wanted to use that Kelly Brooks-ism since the 15th time I heard it. The initial criticism to the current initiative to establish a primary health care facility on Gabriola is custom made for that, including the notion that this is a "locomotive lobby."

Like it or not, we have earned a national reputation for: "petty politics and squabbling.

"Perhaps more than other Gulf Islands, Gabriola is notorious for its parochialism and internecine squabbling," the National Post also recently observed.

Put aside the fact that we are unable to effectively store and share water. It's raining.

But this health care matter is an entirely different kettle of fish. We need this facility. It is the right thing to do, will benefit everyone in this community, harm no one, or their well.

And there is no profit in it, except for a few doctors and nurses who deserve to earn a living, something that communities all over the world recognize and work hard to accommodate.

Texada has one. So does Quadra, Sointula/Malcolm Island, Tahsis, Galiano, Pender, Mayne, etc. They also have much smaller populations.

Ladysmith also has a community medical clinic, just like Fraser Lake, but no ferries.

The folks who came forward to help set up the Gabriola Medical Services Society [subsequently renamed the Gabriola Health Care Society] want to avoid unnecessary controversy and negativity. It's unhealthy, but, as we all know, there's a fat chance of that happening here.

The Sounder - at the request of doctors - got involved. Articles on Al and Louie Strano's initial fund-raising efforts to "get the ball rolling," and Don Powell's "Coming Soon" sign, were published.

There is no conspiracy, only good and honourable intentions, as reported.

I called Dr. Harding at his practice in New West after he submitted his letter and he admitted that "some improvements need to be made."

There is absolutely no expectation that a clinic will be open 24/7, but every reason to believe we can build a trauma clinic, which is integrated into existing services, highly accessible, supplied and co-ordinated by the community, a place to call when life is threatened at inconvenient times.

Nurses - practitioner, or otherwise - will play a role at some point. Many already live on the island, but have nowhere to work. They will compliment, but not replace doctors.

It may even be possible - given technology - to have an X-ray lab that doesn't need to be staffed.

Who knows?

This is - and always will be - a work in progress. The idea is to improve the health of this community, optimally and the sky and finances are the limits.

As for the notion - published elsewhere - that the initiative is citified, implying that people who have, or may contract health problems, should move - well, does anyone really want to go there?

Taking care of your neighbours and self-sufficiency are hallmarks of rural life and at the heart of this project.

The idea that Hornby has a clinic because it is two ferries away from a hospital is news to folks on that island. They say they also created a society to provide addiction, mental health and other services, including for youth and the elderly and are delighted to discover how much of their tax dollars are available for all that.

If you want to row to Nanaimo in the middle of the night - assuming that your problem isn't that you lost an arm - and stand in line, feel free. No one will stop you. Don't want to take our doctors' advice? No law against that.

Want a second opinion. Go for it.

But here is some advice from our friends on Hornby: "If you don't support a primary health care facility, that's fine, but it's no reason to block it."

We all know many people support the initiative, but need more information. That is precisely what the Gabriola Medical Services Society [subsequently renamed the Gabriola Health Care Society] is acquiring, right here, right now.

In the meantime, we have an opportunity to move past the Post, as it were, to focus on common good, think, and discuss issues when we know what we are talking about.

Right now, all that is a tad premature and bad for the blood pressure.

As the Beatles once sang: "Step on the gas, we'll soon be away from here."

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Our medical centre: keep spreading the news

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, October 16 2006

At press time we received an E-mail from Dr. Daile Hoffmann, who is leading the initiative to build a Primary Care Medical Clinic on Gabriola.

"I note that Mr. Powell has already posted his sign. I am sorry that it wasn't done with more fanfare," she reported. "Is it still worthy of a photo?"

Done; although we were still playing telephone tag with Don Powell up until deadline. We will have more information as it becomes available.

Hoffmann added: "You made an excellent comment in your last article, of only publishing information which helps the project, and avoiding naysayers/rumour and the rest of it.

"I am grateful; it needed to be said, and is so very important if we want this clinic to actually be built!

"Work towards the clinic continues, though there is little reportable news this week. Initial meetings with Shelia McConnell of Hornby Island regarding the establishment of an essential health society, and VIHA regarding funding, also essential, should both be occurring later this month.

"These meetings will be with core people to start, with plans for public meetings as soon as possible after that.

"There has been tremendous support voiced for the project. The Lions are receptive to the idea, with details to be decided on at a later date. My patients have been expressing their support, as well as informing me that they have been making donations to the fund. I have even been contacted by a retired physician on the island, offering himself as a resource for the project, should we have need.

"On a curious note, there has been a rumour started that I am leaving the island! I assure you this is quite false!" she concluded.

The Sounder was able to share this with her and you from the island's Festival of Lights lady Ingrid Versteeg: "I am taking advantage of the nice weather, especially NO WIND to start setting up the annual NEW and improved display. Needless to say there are a few more thousand lights than last year.

"I am going to open to the general public one night, Boxing Day, December 26th, from 4:30 to 8:00 pm, and optional donations to the Primary Care Clinic will be very much appreciated."

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Stranos got the ball rolling

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Tuesday, October 10 2006

Louie and Al Strano have headed south to Baja for the winter, but not before organizing a second "Tour de Gabriola," bicycle fund-raiser, once again for funds for health care on the island.

They got the Primary Health Care ball rolling, now it's in the community's court. In the meantime, along with a life-changing challenge they also let us in on an inspiring life story.

Originally they both hail from Philadelphia and were married in 1973. As part of a pre-nuptial agreement, the couple spent a three week honeymoon touring Europe by automobile.

"This experience taught us two things, they said: "one, we both love to travel and two, faster isn't better.

"Covering eight countries in three weeks may look impressive in your passport, but if one doesn't take time to savour the people and places they are visiting, the experience is not only incomplete but the memories become a blur and quickly fade.

"Our desire to both travel more and enjoy it posed a problem. How to feed and clothe ourselves? Neither of us had a rich uncle to provide an immediate solution, so our alternative was a long range remedy."

When Louie finished grad school in 1975 she was hired by DuPont. Thanks to her masters degree in Computer Sciences and practical work experience she received a starting salary comparable to Al's, who worked for Xerox.

"Fancy cars, jewelry or expensive clothes were not our style. The solution was obvious - put the money in the bank," they explained. "For the next 15 years we lived on one salary, saving and investing the other one.

"Simple in principal but not always easy. The temptation to dip into the extra money was frequently there, but the dream of escaping the rat race was always much stronger."

Long story short, they retired in 1989, have at last count visited 110 countries and picked two places to call home: Gabriola Island and the Baja Peninsula.

"I'm 65 now, but intend to live to 100, at least," said Al. "Last year I read about the campaign to acquire medical equipment in the Sounder and thought I might need it some day."

"We wanted to help make a start on the Primary Care Clinic and to raise awareness as well," Louie added. "Liz Ciocea, Louise Van Beek and others helped out with the tour which raised $900, somewhat disappointing, but a good start, considering all the other events and causes on Gabriola."

"Any reluctance to get involved seems to come from people who think the initiative needs more handles," they said, promising to keep in touch electronically and by reading the Sounder website, unit they return in spring, hands-on.

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Our medical clinic: an update

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Tuesday, October 10 2006

In the preliminary stages of planning for a Primary Care Medical Clinic on Gabriola some challenges are becoming clearer, but the widespread recognition of the need and support for the initiative is even more evident.

First and foremost is the establishment of a society to receive money from fund-raising efforts and to, among other things, issue tax receipts for charitable donations. Many Gabriolans are expressing a desire to donate, including re-writing wills to make legacy donations to such a facility.

Al Strano, who organized the second annual "Tour de Gabriola," as a fund-raiser, set up a "Primary Care Gabriola" account at the Coastal Community Credit Union. He is well aware of the need to improve this (see: "The Stranos get the ball rolling" on page 1 and "First business on board," this page.)

It is also essential that islanders begin to exhibit their desire to see such a facility built here. In order to secure government funding, residents must make the strongest case possible to the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) and officials, elected and otherwise, as well as the Regional Hospital in Nanaimo.

We don't need anyone's permission, but we do need all the help we can get, something we are entitled to, given our growing population and tax contributions.

At press time, Dr. Daile Hoffmann informed the Sounder of her most recent efforts. She has been meeting with Don Powell; the developer of the project, on his North Road property which currently houses the Islands Trust Office and the Retirement Village.

Apparently Don has a "future site of" sign that he intends to plant in the ground. The Sounder, camera and notebook in hand, won't miss that event, or the opportunity to report to our readers on ongoing developments and useful information.

Those who have been asking for more details now know the proposed site.

What it will actually include will be determined by the community and its ability to raise funds and secure government financing.

Stressing the fundamental importance of establishing a charitable "Gabriola Health Society," Hofmann said: "It will have the greatest role to play in steering and overseeing this project/clinic.

"Finally, I am (again) phoning VIHA to have them commit to a meeting to find out just what role they are interested in playing" she added.

One name keeps coming up in ongoing conversations that the Sounder is having: Sheila McDonnell of Hornby Island. She played a key role in establishing a clinic there and has a great deal of knowledge and expertise to share.

She responded to a Sounder request for an interview: "I am happy to talk about our specific experience and what I know from many years in community development about community health centre and general non-profit development issues," McDonnell said.

"I am pretty busy these days, but always willing to help further grass-roots empowerment in communities," she added.

Watch for an upcoming interview with her and the announcement of a meeting to begin organizing a committee. Hofmann is also involved in arranging that meeting.

Dr. Bob Henderson practices medicine on Hornby Island, but lives here on Gabriola. He originally contacted the Sounder at the start of the highly successful campaign for the Lifepak 12 defibrillator, which has resulted in saved lives on Gabriola.

"Like many others on the island a medical clinic has been on my mind for some time.

But I wanted to divest myself of some of the responsibility in favour of doctors who practice here on the island," he said.

He joined the growing chorus calling for a non-profit charitable society like the Hornby Island Heath Care Society.

"It coordinates fund raising and runs the clinic in conjunction with first responders, which works well," he reported. "The actual facility is a double wide trailer which was renovated about 15 years ago.

"It contains an emergency room which is small, but meets government standards," he added, before introducing an element that could be key to a Gabriola medical clinic.

"Because it is connected to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Courtenay, it is funded by government. As well, the society secures funding for programs designed for youth, or dealing with addiction, for example. It is important Gabriola involve the hospital in Nanaimo, particularly emergency services."

Currently Hornby has two half-time salaried doctors, who are on call and carry pagers. He estimated that right now the island has a year-round population of 1,000, a fraction of Gabriola. The summer population on Hornby peaks at about 5,000.

Echoing Hoffmann's earlier comment, that doctors on Gabriola can only do so much out of the "trunk of their cars," Henderson said a clinic would provide a storehouse for urgently needed equipment and medicine.

"If you can believe it, doctors on Gabriola have to get IV fluids and drugs from our paramedics during after-hours emergencies," he added.

The Sounder is determined to avoid the unfortunate experiences of community development on Gabriola in the past. Check the museum, virtually every project has been mired in counter-productive acrimony, rumour and negativity. We invite you to go elsewhere for that.

In the meantime, many people have moved to the island with expertise and experience that represents this island's greatest untapped potential to grow in a manner that is most beneficial to the community.

To paraphrase JFK: ask not what your clinic can do for you, ask what you can do for it. An excellent Primary Care Clinic is urgently needed and well within our grasp, especially if we focus on "getting it done." An initial account is active at the credit union.

Please E-mail your comments to:, which will be passed on to doctors and other interested parties and published, if they further this most worthy cause.

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Primary Care

The Editor, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, October 2 2006

Once again we were blessed with sunshine and calm winds. At the Gabriola Professional Centre, Liz Ciocea and Louise Van Beek sat behind the registration desk in front of Coastal Community Insurance with a large pile of forms graciously supplied by Eternal Flow. Janice Van Beek and another person, who wishes to remain anonymous, tended the two water stops with bottled water furnished by Coast Realty and fresh apples. Louie Strano, after having positioned the safety and directional signs borrowed from Emcon, stood by to follow the riders in her van and render any assistance needed.

At 9:15 the first rider signed in and began the circuit. At 10:25 the last two riders who had come from Victoria departed. That made a grand total of 16 riders. That is not a misprint. With perfect weather and a well staffed support team only fourteen Gabriolans participated. This small group helped along by some other individuals managed to raise $900. I am very grateful for their support.

The ride was organized for two reasons: to raise money and to demonstrate to VIHA how much Gabriolans need an improved medical facility. What kind of message does fourteen participants send?

Two weeks previously, the "Super Walk" raised $13,400 for the Parkinson's campaign. I obviously did something wrong.

If you forgot the date or were doing something else, it's not too late. In case you missed it, the name of the account is "Primary Care Gabriola," account number 3255734 at the Coastal Community Credit Union.

Any suggestions of ways to improve this performance can be directed to

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Let's build a medical centre -- Part two

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, October 2 2006

Dr. Madeline McPherson: "a most pressing and desperate health care need."

Few have the first-hand experience of how difficult it will be to establish a medical centre on Gabriola than Dr Madeline McPherson does, or what a profound difference it will make to our lives and to the health of our collective lives in this community.

Back in July, 2005, in a Sounder interview, she said she had begun to lobby politicians and health officials to establish a staffed Diagnostic and Treatment Centre on Gabriola Island.

She hoped that thousands of us would sign petitions in support of meeting what she called, "a most pressing and desperate need," and begin to work toward establishing a medical centre similar to the one she worked in for three years in Gold River, BC.

"That community has a population of 1,800 and is only 55 minutes, or less, from Campbell River, yet it has such a centre, with state-of-the-art equipment and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she reported.

"There is no ferry to contend with, which jeopardizes the health of Gabriola residents in a journey over water, along with long hours of waiting in the over-crowded and overtaxed Emergency Department at the regional hospital, and no means of returning home or accommodation after being discharged late at night," McPherson continues to point out.

On June 22nd, 2006 - her previous proposal and call for petitions, having failed to attract much attention - she once again contacted the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) with a written "Proposal for a Diagnostic and Treatment Centre on Gabriola Island, BC."

Guess what, she wrote? It's worth repeating.

"A most pressing and desperate need (her emphasis) exists for the health care of the 5,000 plus residents of Gabriola Island: a Diagnostic and Treatment Centre that would be available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

But guess what happened this time? Good news. Howard Waldner, president and CEO of VIHA, requested that a meeting be arranged between island doctors and VIHA officials, including Grant Hollett, VIHA director of planning and community engagement.

As well, this year, other frustrated island doctors are involved, as reported in last week's Sounder.

Also, fund-raising got off to a great start when Al Strano organized folks to put on "Tour de Gabriola," raising $900 and depositing it in a "Primary Care Gabriola" account at the Coastal Community Credit Union.

McPherson has practiced medicine with great distinction, literally all over the world, including remote areas of Canada and for the past three years, here on Gabriola.

She has administered to patients for decades in first and third world countries, and, of course, right here, which may be described, given our health care, as second world.

In her proposals she envisions a centre, staffed by nurses and physicians on call, and a nurse practitioner who would coordinate the staffing and operation of the facility.

In an interview with the Sounder last week, she voiced growing concerns among our doctors - and presumably the three new physicians, who are on their way here - about a need that is also growing with our population, the need she describes as "most pressing and desperate."

"Gabriola doctors are seeing more new people all the time," she reported. "We also see cases of people who are in terrible pain but waited to avoid the hassle of late night evacuation, long waits and no accommodation.

"Surely overworked medical staff in Nanaimo would be in favour of a medical centre on Gabriola and would support such an initiative," she added.

McPherson is also calling for equipment to carry out diagnostic, stabilizing and monitoring procedures for such emergencies as heart attacks, syncopies, acute allergic reactions and acute asthma attacks, while waiting for transfer.

"We do not have any area where acutely ill patients can be stabilized and observed, though we do have a defibrillator now," she added, referring to the successful campaign by locals to raise funds to acquire a LifePak 12 unit.

However, the second goal of anti blood clotting medication has not been achieved, nor a central location to store the equipment, a medical clinic that has exceeded the grasp of Gabriolans for years.

The health centre that she and other doctors are proposing would treat simple lacerations and fractures, acute respiratory infection, ear aches, etc. There would no longer be a need to go to the ER in Nanaimo after office and ferry hours.

"The proposed health centre is the way to alleviate the unnecessary suffering and risk involved because of having no immediate care available after hours and weekends on Gabriola," said McPherson.

She envisions a single, one-stop medical centre and points out that a long term care facility for the elderly and disabled could also eventually be attached to the location.

In his reply to her proposal, Waldner advised that VIHA has identified the need to enhance Primary Health Care, to include after hours urgent care as a priority within its Five Year Strategic Plan.

"To that end, authority-wide three-year Primary Health Care (PHC) has recently been finalized," he stated.

"The objective of the PHC strategy is to work with communities and providers to develop local solutions that connect existing services and resources," Waldner added.

Details are available on the website:

While waiting for our interview, McPherson's receptionist informed this writer that everyone who had entered the office since reading last week's Sounder, enthusiastically supported the medical centre proposal and wanted to know more.

The Sounder will share information with our readers as it becomes available. In the meantime, you don't have to be a member of the credit union to donate to the "Primary Care Gabriola" account.

But if you do bank there, remember that small amounts add up quickly. Why not deposit a few dollars in the account while paying your bills? Can you think of a better investment?

And perhaps it's time for fund-raisers to consider donating a portion to a most worthy cause that will benefit us all. Government funding is essential, but the community will ultimately determine the future of such a facility.

Next week in the Sounder, Al Strano, the Gabriolan who got the ball rolling.

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Your attention, please: Let's build a medical clinic

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, September 25 2006

Gabriola is one of few, if not the only Gulf Island without a medical centre. That is about to change.

The rationale has always been this: there is no need for one because of our close proximity to Nanaimo.

Not true, say our frustrated and inadequately equipped doctors. They got the ball rolling and the community has picked it up, making a few first steps on what will be a long road, but a great ride for everyone who becomes involved in the overdue initiative which will benefit us all.

Island doctors say the Sounder was "instrumental in the highly successful campaign for the Lifepak 12 defibrillator, which has resulted in saved lives on Gabriola." They hope this community newspaper will also be interested in this campaign.

Some of our more colourful readers would categorize this as a "no-brainer." The urgent need to establish a medical clinic, transcends political, religious and sexual preferences, age, income, property and other status, the length, and amount of time lived here.

Dr. Daile Hoffmann, our only full-time physician, reports that the goal is to ultimately establish a central clinic, staffed with physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, a lab, X-ray, facilities and allied health professionals and services.

There is one campaign, not two. Local doctors are united in their concerns and determination that a primary care clinic must be built here. Any misunderstanding or confusion about this is the result of mistakes made in correspondence from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).

As always, clear communication with the powers that be - and this includes all levels of government - will be one of the fundamental challenges facing this community, if we are to supplement fund-raising with public funding.

"To reach our goal of a community clinic, financial and political support is needed, and support from the government has been slow in coming," said Hoffmann.

Our doctors have met with VIHA officials and will keep us informed about progress on plans for the first phase which will allow for future expansion: construction of a functional trauma room, facilities for multiple physicians, and an expanded physiotherapy clinic.

Frustrating is how island doctors sum up the current situation and the process so far. They are working in relatively "primitive" facilities. "We can only do so much out of the back of our cars," one island doctor told the Sounder, "and are very concerned about, for example, having to send patients who require sutures to Nanaimo in the middle of the night, including children and the elderly, knowing they won't be able to get back home until morning.

"We are also concerned about needlessly adding to the burden of service in Nanaimo," they added.

A well-equipped and staffed medical centre would eliminate that.

Real progress has been made on two fronts:

Heath professionals are being recruited. Dr. Francois Bosman - who has five years of experience in rural family medicine experience, as well as 16 years of service in the emergency department in Prince George's hospital - will begin practising medicine on Gabriola in January.

"He is keen and committed to help us extend our hours and provide more emergency services on the island," Hoffmann reported.

Al Strano, who organized the recent "Tour de Gabriola," as a fund-raiser, has set up a "Primary Care Gabriola" account at the Coastal Community Credit Union, and joined others in encouraging local business and organizations to develop other own fund-raising initiatives.

Everyone that the Sounder has contacted has been enthusiastic in offering support and unanimous, as well, in their requests for more information.

In upcoming issues of the Sounder we will publish interviews with doctors and other health care professionals, including ambulance personnel, as well as politicians and government officials and community spokespersons from other communities.

In the meantime, the name of the account at the credit union is, once again: "Primary Care Gabriola."Al Strano, who organized the recent "Tour de Gabriola," as a fund-raiser, has set up a "Primary Care Gabriola" account at the Coastal Community Credit Union, and joined others in encouraging local businesses and organizations to develop their own fund-raising initiatives.

Everyone that the Sounder has contacted has been enthusiastic in offering support and unanimous, as well, in their requests for more information.

In upcoming issues of the Sounder we will publish interviews with doctors and other health care professionals, including ambulance personnel, as well as politicians and government officials and community spokespersons from other communities.

In the meantime, the name of the account at the credit union is, once again: "Primary Care Gabriola."

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Life-saving treatment requires "political answer" on Gabriola

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Monday, July 24 2006

By now Dr. Bob Henderson thought he would be using a potentially life-saving, clot-busting drug here on the island. The fact that it has still not been made available through the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) will be of serious concern to island residents, and visitors.

The frustrated Henderson told the Sounder: "Very important delays in the treatment of heart attack patients are occurring on the island and I am now convinced that a political answer is required."

He contacted this reporter with two questions, which our readers should also be asking: One year after the fantastic fund-raising for critical care equipment and the resulting purchase and use of the special defibrillator, what is the status of the attempt to acquire the clot-busting drug through VIHA?

Secondly, in the past year, with the desire by VIHA to establish its 5-year plan, what consideration has it given to the future needs of the 5,000 citizens of Gabriola Island, and how is it going to establish a "presence" here.

Late year, in early July, Henderson and Gabriola's Dr. Daile Hoffmann - the island's only full-time doctor, currently on maternity leave - contacted this newspaper to assist in the fund-raising necessary to acquire specialized, multi-functioning medical equipment.

They had become aware of the need as a result of their ongoing involvement in critical medical emergencies.

Henderson - a family physician who lives on Gabriola, but practices medicine on a half-time basis on Hornby Island - explained that a unit could be purchased to conduct electrocardiograms, as well as interpret them, monitor patients, and defibrillate and pace patient's hearts if too slow, as well as monitor other body functions.

Immediately after our interview was published, the community responded: the local Lions Club donated $15,000 and individuals, organizations and businesses - including G&S Quality Meats and Groceries and Village Food Market - raised more than $29,000.

Speaking on behalf of his fellow Lions, Dr. Don Butt said at the time, "This is a success story of the community pooling its resources to help save lives. We are thrilled to have been part of it."

Not only did Gabriola - with a rapidly growing population, including many retirees - finally get an ECG machine and a defibrillator, but with money left over from the purchase of the unit, other emergency drugs were purchased.

This equipment and medication has been used many times to monitor patients and apply appropriate therapies and has saved expensive transport of some patients.

"The key to this unit is that it is essential in the use of medication called thrombolytics which are "clot busters" and used as quickly as possible in most heart attacks to minimize heart muscle damage," Henderson explained. "The ideal is to use them within an hour of the onset of the chest pain that occurs with heart attacks."

The thrombolytic agent which VIHA could and should provide to Gabriolans has not materialized, despite ongoing efforts by Henderson, dating back to April, 2005.

The ongoing failure to provide the drug is also symptomatic of a greater malaise.

"Sadly, despite considerable effort, VIHA has not managed to develop a presence on our island," said Henderson. "I have questioned what VIHA is doing to assess changes in its relationship with the people of Gabriola Island in its five-year plan.

"The promised release of policies and procedures has been "fast tracked", but still remains non-existent and Gabriola may as well be part of the Galapagos Islands," he added.

Typically the situation on Gabriola Island is quite unusual, and presumably evolving. But because VIHA has no official role here, it doesn't know how to hand over the expensive drug to the doctors who are willing to take care of and administer it.

Henderson and other island doctors say: Gabriola Island represents a golden opportunity to put in place one of the much-heralded, multi-functioning clinics where two or three salaried or fee-for-service doctors provide care in cooperation with nurses, physios and other members of a health care team.

In a message to MLA Leonard Krog, Henderson wrote: "We read in the newspapers that there is new funding from the federal government going into primary care medicine, but none of it seems destined for our island.

"In the meantime, because there is no emergency room type coverage on the island after hours, even a bad toothache, may result in an expensive ride off the island," he reported.

"If we were available for emergencies and worked for the ferry corporation, a phone company, etc., we would receive some compensation, but as it is we receive no thanks except the poor payments for after-hour treatment, "Henderson noted.

"We do it only to help the paramedics and of course Gabriolans, but I don't plan to continue it beyond the next few months," he added.

Through a network of hospitals, clinics, centres, health units, and residential facilities, VIHA is responsible for providing health care to more than 700,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands of the Georgia Strait, and in the mainland communities north of Powell River and south of Rivers Inlet.

Sounder readers who want action and answers, can contact Howard Waldner, president and CEO through his assistant, Lou Pennell, at (250) 370-8692 or E-mail:

The assistant to Dr. Glen Lowther, VIHA's executive vice president and chief medical officer is, Arlene McAuley, at (250) 370-8045 or E-mail:

In upcoming editions, the Sounder intends to update our readers, including reaction to this story from VIHA. They have a copy. We also hope to compare and contrast the situation on other islands.

In the meantime, the Nanaimo constituency office of Leonard Krog, MLA, is at 4-77 Victoria Crescent, V9R 5B9. The telephone number is: (250) 714-0630, the fax is: (250) 714-0859. His e-mail is:

And if you want to speak to him directly, use toll-free Inquiry BC: 1-800-663-7867.

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LIFEPAK 12: something to celebrate

By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder, Saturday, December 3 2005

It's here and has already been put into service, medical equipment that was made possible through generosity in the community, a device that will help save lives and represents a major step forward in emergency treatment on the island.

Garbiola's new Ambulance Unit Chief Sandy Simrose told the Sounder, "When we get a 911 call with a report of chest pains I now immediately inform Dr. Daile Hoffmann or Dr. Bob Henderson, who are trained and prepared to use the LIFEPAK unit.

"This happened recently and a doctor was on the scene, just seconds after me," she reported. "As a result we can provide essential information to an Advance Life Support team when we transfer the patient who is already hooked up and being treated."

Dr. Bob Henderson cited a recent study in the UK which showed a significant decrease in mortality rates when cardiac patients received treatment in the first hour after making an emergency call, compared to those who weren't attended to until an hour later.

In early July, Henderson and Gabriola's Dr. Daile Hoffmann contacted this newspaper to assist in the fund-raising necessary to acquire the specialized, multi-functioning medical equipment. They had become aware of the need as a result of their ongoing involvement in critical medical emergences.

Henderson - a family physician who lives on Gabriola, but practices medicine on a half-time basis on Hornby Island - explained that a unit could be purchased which could conduct electrocardiograms, as well as interpret them, monitor patients, defibrillate them and pace their hearts if too slow and also monitor other body functions.

Immediately after our interview was published, the community responded. Individuals, organizations and businesses - including G&S Quality Meats and Groceries and Village Food Market - raised more than $29,000.

This included a generous donation of $15,000 by the Lions Club. Speaking on behalf of his fellow members, Dr. Don Butt said, "This is a success story of the community pooling its resources to help save lives. We are thrilled to have been part of it."

Tawny Capon, president of the Gabriola Ambulance Society, recalled that Henderson demonstrated the capabilities of the lightweight device with diverse features to the society.

Capon - who served for 10 years as a paramedic - said, "On behalf of our 400 members we donated $7,500. It is important to recognize the fact that Bob and Dale have not only helped raise the funds, but are also prepared to use the equipment in medical emergencies. That's huge."

Sylvie Montreuil - currently working as a paramedic on Gabriola and trained in assisting doctors and ALS teams in using the LIFEPAK 12 - was one of the organizers of the Good Heart Race earlier in the year. The bicycle Tour de Gabriola raised more than $2,000 for the purchase of the equipment.

"This is fantastic, an important diagnostic tool as well as treatment for patients on the island before they get to the hospital in Nanaimo," she said.

Henderson reported that the island's new LIFEPAK 12 was a bargain. A demonstration model, which has never been used, was available for half the normal price (about $35,000).

He pointed out some of the features of the device, including a blood pressure cuff which can be set to automatically monitor the patient within adjustable time frames. It will pace the heartbeat and send electronic pulses through the chest wall of the patient to increase blood flow. Also among LIFEPAK's capabilities is recording information, including, names, birthdates, age, sex, and medications.

"We can provide this important data by simply printing it out," he said. "Eventually we will be able to transfer information by cell phone when the hospital in Nanaimo has the capability."

Henderson also reported that the Vancouver Island Health Authority has given the green light to treat patients with blood clotting therapies outside of hospitals.

The drugs are expensive - about $2,700 a shot - but are currently administered at hospitals, later in treatment. He hopes that funds will soon be made available so that the critical time frame for treating patients can be cut significantly.

"One thing that has gone unsaid is the incredible importance of the support that you and the Sounder have given this project," Henderson added. "Gabriolans should understand that this project would have been a very prolonged and likely unsuccessful effort without that support."

Montreuil said island cyclists are keen to establish the Good Heart Race - Tour de Gabriola as an annual fund-raising event.

Capon reported the AGM of the Gabriola Ambulance Society is at 7:30 pm at the WI Hall on Tuesday, November 29th. "We are one of the quieter groups on the island, but for almost five decades the society has made a major contribution, beyond paying for our member's ambulance bills. The meeting is a good opportunity for people to get involved and learn more about our work."

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