LETTERS: Town Council review – Island Health lab service degraded

December 20, 2022

  • Town Council Review – 2023-2025 Strategic Plan & five-year Financial Plan
  • Island Health’s lab services degraded

Town Council Review – 2023-2025 Strategic Plan & five-year Financial Plan

Sent December 8, 2022 to: Mayor Teunis Westbroek, and Councillors Scott Harrison, Anne Skipsey, Petronella Vander Valk, Jean Young, and cc Lou Varela, CAO

For consideration regarding Qualicum Beach Town Council Review – 2023-2025 Strategic Plan & five-year Financial Plan

Dear Mayor and Council

As a group of Qualicum Beach residents, we are writing to congratulate you for your success in the recent municipal election and with confidence that the next four years will be a time of open, informed and forward-looking policy making by our Town Council which welcomes community participation.

Encouraged by the Mayor’s priorities (PQBNews) and in light of Council formulating its vision, strategies and budget in the New Year to address significant challenges facing our community we are hopeful Council will consider certain key principles and ideas in its new strategic plan.

# OCP: by placing a strong emphasis on respecting, protecting and fulfilling the OCP [Official Community Plan] as fundamental to sound Town planning and ensuring that ‘case by case’ analysis of development proposals is guided by a comprehensive and integrated Qualicum Beach Town Plan. We understand this as a key priority. Notably, the forthcoming OCP Review presents an opportunity for a renewed process utilizing best practices from other communities, and by recognizing the global climate crisis. 

# Climate Change Lens: understanding it as a broad and inclusive concept covering both public policy and administrative activities. It will require rigorous application in relation to all aspects of Town policy including, for example: town purchasing of vehicles and equipment; incentivising changes in residents’ behaviour (e.g., rainwater management); and for all development proposals by ensuring protection of Qualicum Beach’s natural environment.

# Environmental Stewardship: As a small town, Qualicum Beach has a primary obligation to act as a steward of its rural, forest, agricultural and coastal environment. In considering new projects, priority attention must be paid to critical environmental infrastructure challenges, natural and engineered, facing the Town. It will necessitate:

  • Implementing the Community Climate Change Action Plan
  • Focusing attention on sensitive ecosystems, wetlands and urban tree canopy                      
  • Fast tracking the Urban Forest Master Plan & Tree Protection Bylaw (public & private)
  • Working collaboratively with the RDN on regional plans for water and food security
  • Prioritizing replacement of aging infrastructure including Bay Street, culverts under Beach and Grandon Creeks, water and sewer
  • Developing an accounting system which incorporates the valuation of natural assets

# East Village: Despite last minute approval of the Second Avenue East [Windley / Kelland] development, Council we believe should give renewed attention to the original, imaginative, welcomed East Village neighbourhood design plan. Would Council consider repealing the adoption of the seven-storey ‘Twin Towers’ project?  It is a prime example of ‘case by case’ zoning which ignored a comprehensive and integrated approach to Town planning for the East Village.

Failing that, would Council undertake to mitigate those features which trampled on the previously supported design plan? Such reconsideration should engage full public consultation (previously denied) including the proposal to relocate the Public Works Yard to the Rupert/Jones Community Park, by exploring its integration into the East Village design plan.

# Financial management: In the interest of financial transparency and accountability by Council’s elected officials to ensure their informed oversight of budgets, project estimates and the avoidance of significant cost overruns becoming reliant on grants or use of Town reserves (for example Memorial Roundabout; East Village Service Delivery Area), would Council consider establishing a Committee of Finance chaired by a Council member (Deputy Mayor as in White Rock) reporting directly to Council?

# Town Governancecommunity participation: to enable working Town residents to participate in Council Meetings, COWs [Committee of the Whole meetings] and Public Hearings we suggest holding meetings in late afternoons/evenings. We also request the 3-minute time slots for public comments traditionally held at the end of Council meetings be reinstated and recorded. These would be two small but important steps towards strengthening the democratic process.

Many thanks for your consideration,


Graham Riches, Charna Macfie, Pat Jacobson, Mary Riches, Deb McKinley, and Jay Smith, Qualicum Beach

Island Health’s lab services degraded

In 2019, without consultation with our local doctors and hospital pathologists, Island Health (formerly known as Vancouver Island Health Authority or VIHA) completed the move of all our clinical pathology analysis from our Campbell River Hospital pathologists to Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consultants Corporation (VICPCC) – a private, for-profit corporation operating in a public laboratory at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.

Turnaround times for VICPCC clinical pathology processing of patient results, in particular for urgent cases, have substantially worsened.

When we had all the anatomic and clinical pathology done in our hospital’s lab when Dr. Aref Tabarsi was the senior pathologist here, the results for endoscopies and colonoscopies in 2005 took 48 hours. In 2019 those results took 5 to 7 days and, now, turnaround times for the results of endoscopies and colonoscopies are taking up to a month.

Recently, another change was made. Anatomic pathology samples are now being sent to Victoria or Nanaimo for analysis rather than being analyzed in the Campbell River Hospital lab. Also, now all Campbell River outpatient lab work is being done at the Comox Valley Hospital.

When we had all the anatomic and clinical pathology done in our hospital’s lab when Dr. Aref Tabarsi was the senior pathologist here, the results for endoscopies and colonoscopies in 2005 took 48 hours.

In 2019, those results took 5-7 days and, now, turnaround times for the results of endoscopies and colonoscopies are taking up to a month.

Citizens for Quality Health Care, Campbell River, BC

The Campbell River Hospital lab is closed many days at 1pm or sometimes 2pm due to a severe shortage of staff. Also due to a shortage of lab staff there are often 2-hour wait times for outpatients even when they have an appointment booked. Many outpatients are arriving to find the lab closed. Recently the lab was closed to outpatients for an entire weekend and patients were told to go to Life Labs (a private, for-profit lab) in Courtenay.

Overworked and exhausted lab staff say they are ready to leave and are actively looking for work elsewhere because they are not respected, appreciated or listened to by Island Health. Staff say numerous complaints alleging abuse of staff by Island Health were ignored.

VIHA doesn’t appear to be trying to staff this hospital, they just keep moving services elsewhere.

If this trend continues, soon other parts of the hospital, such as operating rooms, will be affected because lab staff may not be able to provide timely support in cases of serious major hemorrhage during surgeries.

Now is the time for Island Health to take action and restore some substantial lost trust and return optimum health care to the people of north Vancouver Island. For the well-being of patients, we need our Campbell River Hospital lab restored to the level of staffing and services it should be (and used to be).

This community demands that an independent external investigation [be] ordered by the Provincial Government into the contract between VICPCC and Island Health, and into VIHA’s management of our Campbell River Hospital lab.

If action is not taken quickly to restore our lab and fix the problems, we may well have all major surgeries moved away [from Campbell River], and we could well end up with just a day surgery/convalescent/long term care hospital or triage centre.

That is not what we all worked diligently for to get this hospital in Campbell River, and it is not what Island Health promised us!


Lois Jarvis, Richard Hagensen and Joanne Banks, on behalf Of Citizens for Quality Health Care, Campbell River, BC

This is a condensed version of an open letter sent in November 2022 to municipal Councils on the North Island. Are there any comparable concerns about lab services here in the mid-Island? Please let us know. — Editor

READ previously Published Letters