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General News · 24th September 2010
Myrna Kerr
When friends kick friends I want to know why.

In the case of the Cortes Community Health Association Board (CCHA) it is the unjust treatment of Dr. Kirstie Overhill which made me ask why.

The CCHA Board refused to allow a skilled, much respected and dedicated physician, Dr. Kirstie Overhill, who has practiced on Cortes Island for the past 11 years, from returning to her practice after an eight month disability leave. Further, they have refused her the opportunity to apply for the physician position on Cortes currently advertised by the Vancouver Island Health Authority. The CCHA Board has declined to explain their actions.

The Cortes island doctor is and will be a salaried doctor, not an enviable position for physicians. The salary offered is less than half what can be earned by independent doctor’s who bill the BC Medical plan. A loyal rural doctor who is willing to put up with lowish pay, poorish working conditions and who knows, and cares about most of the residents is a gold mine.

Macleans’s Magazine, April 23, 2010 in the article “Do you trust your doctor” writes about the difficulty of recruiting rural doctors: “One recent study suggests one in seven doctors in rural Canada plans to move in the next two years.” The article goes on to say that “some 39 per cent of Canadians polled say doctors are concerned more about dealing with patients quickly,” a sad result of doctors seeing more and more patients to increase their income. A salaried doctor has no such constraints and Kirstie Overhill is a sterling example of a doctor who puts in what ever hours are needed to care for her patients, including coming out at night, or on her days off, for an emergency.

The overwhelming response of the Cortes community when they learned of this was “we want Kirstie Overhill as our doctor on Cortes.” More than 30 letters from individuals supporting the reappointment of Kirstie Overhill have been published.

No answers came from the CCHA Board of Directors except for a published paper which stonewalls the question relating to the physician position and gives incorrect financial and administrative information.

I attempted to find more information and was able to get some, but not all, of the minutes of the CCHA Board Minutes from the AGM on April 11, 2010. From the July 28th Board minutes I was struck that motions are missing and decisions are based on feelings “The Board does not feel Dr. Overhill will conform to the new financial and administrative model that the Health Centre is now operating under....” Somehow, feelings seem to replace information and investigation for members of the CCHA Board. I suggest to the members of the CCHA Board that a good investment would be the purchase of “Bourinot’s Rules of Order,” the Canadian rules of order guide which is based on the procedures of the House of Commons in Ottawa.

So I wrote a petition to the Cortes Community Health Board that said “your petitioners request and call upon the Cortes Community Health Association to hold an Extraordinary General meeting before September 30, 2010 to explain their actions and their Authority to carry out such actions.” and put it out to the Cortes community.

I also wrote individually, and privately, to each CCHA Board Member on September 13, sent them a copy of the petition and advised them that a petition forcing a meeting was not the best way to resolve the issue. I asked them to begin a fair and open process. I wrote “although my preference is to have Kirstie Overhill as the doctor, if a fair, reasonable and transparent process of negotiation has been followed I would support, and accept, whatever is the outcome.” Had such a process been started I would have withdrawn the petition.

More than 100 Cortes Islanders signed the petition; more than 80 percent of those signatures are CCHA members. This petition was mailed, by registered mail, to the Cortes Community Health Association Board of Directors last Wednesday, September 22. The BC Society Act provides for the calling of a general meeting when 10 % or more of the voting members of the society request such a meeting, the petition has 40% plus.

A copy of the petition was also sent to Vancouver Island Health Authority Board and staff, to the BC Minster of Health, the Honourable Kevin Falcon and to Claire Trevena, North Island MLA.

The Cortes community must now press the CCHA Board for a Extraordinary General Meeting. The community must flood the individual Board members, and Vancouver Island Health Association Board and staff with phone calls demanding a meeting.

The list of CCHA Board members has been published and most numbers are in the Cortes 2010 phone book; CCHA President, Ed Safarik is listed as well but he lives in Vancouver; his Vancouver number is 604 261 2761. CCHA Secretary Treasure, Isolde Ruthenberg, is not listed, her number is 250 202 0079. Paola Filippin's email is bramblyhedge.cortesgmail.com. The CCHA email is cchatwincomm.ca

To call the Vancouver Island Health Authority Board Chair, Jac Kruyt, or Richard Crow, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Office, call (toll free) 1 877 370 8699 and email: infoviha.ca
To call the BC Minster of Health, the Honourable Kevin Falcon, 1 800 663 7867.

Claire Trevena, North Island MLA phone number is 250 287 5100, email Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca

Add your name to the petition:
It is not too late to add your name to the petition. Below is a link to a e-petition, and a from to join the Cortes Community Health Association. Print them, complete them, and mail to CCHA , PO Box 59, Manson’s Landing, V0P IK0 or take to the Cortes Community Health Clinic.