Valemount Clinic patient room
RMG file photo

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

As part of its advocacy for more healthcare services in rural areas, the B.C. Rural Health Network has launched a callout for stories from rural B.C. residents. According to the callout, the Network is seeking testimony from people who have had to travel to urban areas for treatment, or who have generally faced obstacles in accessing medical care within their rural community.

“Your story could help shed light on the importance of accessible healthcare services in rural communities,” the callout reads.

The Network is a quickly-growing coalition of non-profits, municipal and district governments, and individual activists, Executive Director Paul Adams told The Goat.

“We [advocate for] solutions on health care, and we do so in a collaborative way, working with communities and […] ensuring that the lived experience of residents and the communities as a whole are part of the data that we bring forward and the positions that we create,” he said.

The aim of the story callout is to collect testimony that will inform this advocacy, said Adams. He added that this tactic has recently seen success with the Network’s advocacy for more affordable transit services for rural residents travelling to get organ transplants.

“We talked to people who have literally chosen to die rather than seek the [transplant] surgeries they need because of the [travel] cost involved,” he said. “We’ve made the public aware of that inequity, and the result of that is that we’re meeting with the Premier […] to discuss how we can improve and change the [Province’s travel assistance] program.”

Stories will be incorporated into an internal database that the Network will use to identify common issues and determine how it should engage with communities on a case-by-case basis, Adams said. The Network will also use the stories to find spokespeople for specific issues like access to cancer treatment, he added.

“A limited number of people are willing to put their face to a story,” he said. “So we need to collect as many of those stories as we can […] then we need to find those champions who are willing to stand up and to actually put their face in the public spotlight.”

Valemount resident John Grogan said he hopes the Network uses the stories to successfully make rural healthcare equitable to its urban counterparts. He worries the callout may not reach enough people to get a comprehensive sample of residents, but said it is important to raise awareness of the issues facing rural communities like Valemount.

“Not having long term care [in Valemount] really has a negative effect on community. When we ship somebody away, the whole community is at a loss because there’s no opportunity for a living wake,” he said. “There are other issues […] we don’t have any dental [care]. Not having a Greyhound bus regular service, what’s that done is really isolated us.”

Adams hopes that the Network will keep collecting stories for generations to come. He said the callout is being distributed throughout B.C.’s rural communities by Network volunteers, and invites those with stories to email [email protected].