Good thing Trail’s new council is committed to mending fences in regional recreation. Because last term, being an elected city official presented a few unexpected health risks.
While serving their final year, two former Silver City councillors remained mum about how the Trail Residency Program (TRP) became such a bone of contention with one local doctor that he refused them treatment in the city’s only emergency ward.
Sean Mackinlay and Gord DeRosa, three-year and 27-year councillors respectively, have quietly gone on to new adventures in life since the Nov. 15 civic election. Now both are ready to share their personal experience of how a Rossland-based GP couldn’t see past politics to administer them care at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) last year.
The first occasion was post-clinic hours in late May 2014, when on advice from family healthcare professionals, Mackinlay sought treatment from the Trail ER for an undisclosed ongoing medical condition.
“To be honest, the first time he said it to me I thought he was joking,” said Mackinlay.
“This particular doctor came in and informed me that he was going to refuse me anything because I (had) been sitting on city council and he didn’t agree with the policy in place for recreation,” he continued. “I didn’t want to use my blow horn when I was on council. So I hummed and hawed if I should talk to anyone about it because my problem was nowhere near as serious as Gord’s.”
In that situation, DeRosa wound up in the KBRH emergency room in mid-July, following a serious accident on his ATV at Christina Lake.
DeRosa recalls the Trail ER being very quiet that Saturday when his visiting daughter accompanied him to have the site’s only on-duty doctor assess a very painful upper body injury.
“They triaged me before they were going to put me in,” said DeRosa.
“They (ER nurse) figured maybe I had a separated or broken shoulder and perhaps a collapsed lung. But I sat there and I sat there, and I am thinking ‘Wait a minute something is wrong with this picture.’”
After about 90 minutes, a nurse came to check on DeRosa, asking him to be patient a little bit longer.
At that point, DeRosa realized the same doctor who refused Mackinlay’s treatment was on duty – and he was subject to being denied care as well.
“The nurse said ‘Yes, he refused to see you,’” DeRosa added.
With that bit of news, the longtime councillor was preparing to leave when the ER nurse urged him not to go, because a potential lung injury could lead to very serious consequences if left untreated.
However, DeRosa was willing to travel to either the Nelson or Grand Forks hospital for an X-ray rather than wait until the next doctor came on shift.
But first he asked to speak with the Rossland doctor.
“He did come in and we had a pretty civil conversation,” DeRosa noted.
“He said,’I won’t see you, I don’t feel I am in a good frame of mind that I can give you fair treatment.’”
The GP’s stance puzzled the experienced politician, because he’s been an outspoken proponent of cancelling the TRP for a number of years.
“I told him that I was going to resign from council over this very topic,” said DeRosa. “And wasn’t it strange that it was only Sean and I who were sympathetic to the issue he had with the recreation service.”
Being refused medical care was the final straw for DeRosa, who did indeed resign from municipal governance after repeatedly asking Trail council to “scrap the trap.”
“To think our policy has manifested itself into such a serious reaction,” he said. “We have literally destroyed ourselves over the TRP. There’s no more figure skating club, hockey is challenged, Trail has had to subsidize the curling club. It’s been divisive and it’s time to restart the ballgame in this valley.”
Mackinlay, on the other hand, takes a more conservative approach to being refused medical care, saying he thinks it’s a one-off.
“The doctor may have political, religious or whatever beliefs to say he won’t treat the person,” said Mackinlay. “But in this case, I don’t believe this is a failure of Rossland or Trail council. I think this particular doctor took it upon himself to be Don Quixote against the windmill,” he explained. “But he took it too far, because there wasn’t another doctor there – and sometimes you just have to suck it up.”
Mackinlay did file a complaint with the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons, he confirmed, but has yet to be contacted by the regulating body and is voiced concern the matter has been buried.
While Interior Health (IH) would not speak to a specific physician or staff personnel issue, the expectation is that emergency department physicians will provide care to any patient with medical needs who presents to our emergency departments, said Karl Hardt, IH’s east communications manager, in an email response.
He referred to the Canadian Medical Association Code of Ethics, which states that physicians should not discriminate against any patient on such grounds as political affiliation, age, gender, marital status, medical condition, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
“Refusing to provide care is a very serious issue that could result in suspension, revoking a physician’s privileges and even loss of licence,” wrote Hardt.
Concerns specific to physicians may also be addressed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, he explained, adding, IH does not have direct involvement in that process, but would be made aware of any significant physician concerns by the College.