May 20, 2022 – James Hanson, VP of Clinical Operations for Island Health (aka VIHA), mentioned in this letter, has also played a role in the Eileen Wicks’ story. On February 10, 2022, after MP Gord Johns’ office intervened on the Wicks’ behalf, Mr. Hanson acknowledged Trevor Wicks’ Freedom of Information request and agreed to provide Mr. Wicks with a copy of Eileen Wicks’ Island Health records. To date, Island Health has still not provided the records stipulated in that FOI request. — Editor
B.C. government ignores conflict of interest allegations regarding Island Health’s award of lab services to private, for-profit company
In 2014 a group of pathologists working at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, British Columbia who learned the province would be changing the method of payment for pathologists formed the Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consultants Corporation (VICPCC), a private, for-profit corporation. The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) awarded a contract for clinical pathology for all of Vancouver Island to VICPCC through confidential recommendation of Dr. Gordon Hoag, the VIHA pathology department head who was also a major shareholder of VICPCC, which is a serious conflict of interest.
According to VIHA, the VICPCC subsequently, in March 2019, made “a business decision” — without public consultation — to remove the entire funding for Clinical Pathology from the Campbell River hospital and the Comox Valley hospital exclusively to their corporation. This decision specifically disabled the Campbell River Hospital lab from hiring much needed onsite pathologist(s). As a result, the turnaround time for anatomic pathology and, in particular, urgent and emergent clinical pathology tests increased significantly, delaying lab results and ultimately diagnosis and treatment for Campbell River and North Island patients. Facing public outcry, VIHA promised to return the funding back to the Campbell River Hospital lab but, it later turned out it was an empty promise, used as a tool, just to cool off the outcry.
James Hanson who is [VIHA’s] Vice-President of Clinical Operations, responded to a letter of concern from us. However, when we wrote back politely correcting several erroneous statements he made and asked for a meeting, he responded by saying he didn’t want to hear from us again. Kathy MacNeil, President and CEO of VIHA also responded with the erroneous graph and an erroneous statement about the College of Physicians & Surgeons. We replied and pointed out the inaccuracies and asked for a meeting. We never heard from her again.
Local clinical lab services for the over 60,000 people who live in Campbell River and northern part of Vancouver Island are now only available from this private corporation.
Overworked North Island physicians can no longer communicate with the Campbell River pathologists about their patients. The resulting lack of government funding has prevented pathologists at the Campbell River hospital, a teaching hospital, from doing any further teaching. Overworked lab techs are forced to waste their valuable time trying to communicate with the pathologists outside the hospital via phone, digital imaging and emails while a pathologist who could give a timely diagnosis is right there in the lab only 20 feet away.
Two pathology oversight positions were recently eliminated: Dr. Bellamy (medical lead for North Island labs); and Dr. Aref Tabarsi, the division head of General pathology for VIHA. Now there is no local oversight of clinical pathology funding, only the private, for-profit VICPCC — which is benefitting financially from our loss of services.
Over 2500 people signed a petition, hundreds wrote to VIHA, Premier Horgan, Health Minister Dix, and MLAs, asking for an external independent investigation into this ongoing conflict of interest and deterioration of our public health care services. To date, the B.C. government has ignored our concerns.
Please read the Open Letter sent to Hon. Adrian Dix, Minister of Health: The Dark Side of VIHA
Lois Jarvis, Richard Hagensen and Joanne Banks, Campbell River, BC