Board of Directors

Edward Staples – President
Colin Moss – Vice President
Peggy Skelton – Secretary/Treasurer
Bill Day – Director
Dave Smith – Director
Johanna Trimble – Director
Leonard Casley – Director
Pegasis McGauley- Director
Stuart Johnston – liaison with the Rural Coordination Centre of B.C.
Jude Kornelsen – liaison with the Centre for Rural Health Research
Teresa Murphy  – liaison with the BC Health Coalition

Paul Adams – Administrator
Nienke Klaver – Executive Assistant

The year of the pandemic has busted the myth that Canada values its seniors

Decades of promises to improve the quality of life of elderly Canadians have gone unfulfilled. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the ugly truth.

By Christina FrangouNovember 17, 2020

This has been a year of realizing that what we thought was solid ground beneath our collective feet was in fact a cliff that would crumble away with just a bit of natural erosion or one sharp blow. We reflected on 2020 to find truths, exploded. This is one of them. Read more about the year that changed everything »

“You are a waste of space,” a nurse told 88-year-old Mary Wilton in the summer of 2019 after the octogenarian, who suffers from Parkinson’s, vomited while receiving care in a hospital near Toronto.

Today, Wilton’s daughter Alison cries as she talks about the day her mother phoned to tell her about the encounter. She calls it one of many examples of age discrimination that her mother has faced over the last decade as her health worsened. The ageism comes not only in the form of callous comments but as unaffordable housing, insufficient home care, wait lists for long-term care and a lack of support for family caregivers—all of which existed prior to the pandemic but worsened over 2020, says Wilton. “People say, ‘Well, they’re old anyway.’ ”

For decades, one Canadian government after another has made promises to Canada’s older adults to increase their access to support and improve the quality of their lives. In 2004, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care, George Smitherman, said: “We need to change the culture of long-term care in this province.” In 2014, Canada’s minister of state for seniors, Alice Wong, said: “The government of Canada is committed to ensuring a high quality of life for seniors.” In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We’re making sure [seniors] have the support they need.”

But the reality of 2020 is that Canada’s seniors are suffering disproportionately, and it’s because these promises have gone unfulfilled. The proof is in the pandemic numbers: by the summer, over 80 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred in nursing and retirement home settings—nearly twice the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, even though Canada’s total COVID-19 mortality rate was comparatively lower. 

To read more click on: The year of the pandemic has busted the myth that Canada values its seniors

OUR EDITORIAL: Looking at truths, exploded

Template Letter to Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming

Please feel free to use the letter below as a template for yourself or your organization.
A list of relevant Ministers with their addresses can be found at the end of the letter.

Both the letter and the list of addresses can be downloaded as a PDF at the end of the page.

March 2, 2021

Dear Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming, 

The Rural Health Network is pleased to endorse the Let’s Ride campaign for a B.C. wide unified public transit network, publicly owned and operated. There is presently limited to no reliable or affordable transportation in Rural or Remote communities especially in winter. Thus it is particularly important to have reliable bus service. 

Since Greyhound stopped serving the majority of provinces in 2018, rural and remote communities have no bus service to attend health appointments, or to continue social contacts. 

Private pay for service or family and friends (if available or able) are the only way for those living rurally or remotely to attend appointments. Costs for attending health care are much higher for those living rurally or remotely. The preliminary study done by the Centre for Rural Health Research, found that out of pocket expenses average approximately $2234.00 per year for people travelling for health care from rural and remote areas. There is also, at times, a need for the person to be accompanied and this can increase the cost. It also makes travel to medical appointments so difficult for some that they choose not to go, sometimes with serious consequences. 

It means not only difficult access to health care but also lack of contact for families with members living in different communities. For many, especially seniors, lack of bus service limits visits to friends and relatives who do not live near. This lack of options to socialize leads to isolation and the possible mental health issues this impacts 

Good reliable and affordable bus service is an important part of a Climate Action Plan. Offering people a good alternative to driving individual vehicles can serve to reduce greenhouse gases.

The lack of bus transportation is a very serious problem, a true crisis for many in rural British Columbia. We believe the “Let Ride “ campaign for a B.C. wide unified transit network publicly owned and operated will address these issues and make B.C . a healthier place to live for all its residents. 

Thanks for your consideration. we look forward to your timely response. 


cc: Premier John Horgan 
Minister of Health, Adrian Dix 
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Sheila Malcolmson, 
President and CEO BC Transit, Erinn Pinkerton, 
Minister of Citizens’ Services, Lisa Beare 


Politicians’ addresses March 2021 

Premier John Horgan
PO Box 9041
Stn ProvGovt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1

Minister of Health 
Adrian Dix 
PO Box 9050 
Stn Prov Govt 
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2 

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure 
Rob Fleming
PO Box 9055
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Minister of Mental Health and Addiction
Sheila Malcolmson
PO Box 9087
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E4

Minister of Citizens’ Services
Lisa Beare
PO Box 9068
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

President and CEO B.C. Transit
Erinn Pinkerton
520 Gorge Rd. E.
Victoria, BC V8W 9T5


The following Email was sent to our BC Rural Health Network members:

The lack of reliable, consistent, and cost effective transportation has always been identified as one of the top barriers for access to healthcare services for those in rural and remote communities.

The “Let’s Ride” campaign is promoting a BC-wide unified public transit network, which would be publicly owned and operated.

This campaign is requesting support from those communities where a lack of transportation impacts the ability of residents to access healthcare services, as well as the ability to maintain social interactions outside of their own community, a factor in maintaining optimum mental health.

For complete details of the “Let’s Ride” campaign please see their website at

If you or your organization can support this initiative, we encourage you to contact the BC Government ministries which are involved.  

We have attached a template letter to this email for you to use if you find it helpful.  We encourage you to include in your letter the specific issues your community faces.

We are also including a list of ministries with their Minister and contact information to whom you can mail your letter. Rural transportation is part of several ministries’ business. Letters received Canada Post attract more attention than emails.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

BC Rural Health Network Access to Care Committee

Peggy Skelton                                   
Pegasis McGauley 


Canada’s public health data meltdown

When needed the most, the systems that track health and vaccines were a scattered mess. How Canada went from a world leader in public health technology to laggard.

By Justin Ling April 7, 2021

A FedEx worker scans a shipment of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on March 24, 2021 (Nathan Denette/CP) 

[Excerpt] For weeks, Canadians have been casting their envious eyes to Israel, where more than half the country has been inoculated against COVID-19. Israel, less than a quarter the size of Canada, has administered nearly twice as many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Middle Eastern country has some innate advantages: It is small and centralized, and offered top dollar to ensure vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna would come fast, and in large volumes. But geography and money aren’t the reason why Israel is outpacing Canada by 10-to-one.

Israel has the vaccines because it has the data.

In its shrewd deal with Pfizer, Israel offered to turn the country into one giant clinical trial: Providing the vaccine manufacturer unprecedented large-scale visibility as to the vaccine’s efficacy. It’s all made possible because of the country’s state-of-the-art information technology and robust national vaccination database.

The rest of the world is currently benefiting from that incredibly granular information.

Canada could never have struck such a deal. Its health technology is, charitably, a decade out of date. It lacks the ability to adequately track infectious disease outbreaks, efficiently manage vaccine supply chains and storage, quickly administer doses, and monitor immunity and adverse reactions on a national basis.

Even though all the shipments of vaccines arriving in Canada come with scannable barcodes, to make tracking and logistics easier—with some manufacturers even barcoding the vials themselves—no Canadian province can scan them. In many provinces, pharmacies can’t access the provincial vaccine registry. Provinces do not automatically submit reports on COVID-19 cases or vaccines into the federal system, and must submit reports manually. Many crucial reports are still submitted by fax: Where fax has recently been phased out, they have been replaced by emailed PDFs.

Ours is a dumb system of pen-and-paper and Excel spreadsheets, in a world quickly heading towards smart systems of big data analytics, machine learning and blockchain. It’s unclear how Ottawa will be able to issue vaccine passports, even if it wants to.

At the core of the omnishambles is a simple fact that Canada has no national public health information system, but 13 different regional ones. Many of those regional systems have smaller, disconnected, systems within: Like a Russian nesting doll of antiquated technology.

But there’s good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. In some parts of the country, real progress is being made. Small technology start-ups are figuring out cheap, scalable and innovative solutions. In some provinces, progress can be as simple as updating operating systems.

If we are ever going to build efficient, cost-effective, and effective health infrastructure, Ottawa needs to take the lead. We need to abandon the idea that federalism requires us to have each sub-national government run entirely independent, walled-off, health databases.

In 1996, at a national conference of health officials, it was decided that “an immunization tracking system is urgently needed in Canada.” It included a list of goals: To identify children in need of vaccination, to book appointments, to do population-level analysis of immunity to diseases, and so on.

We need data sharing. We need shared infrastructure. We need a national public health system.

To read more, click on: Canada’s public health data meltdown

The pandemic has exposed Canada’s internet problem

As the crisis drags on, many of us live with web connections too weak for work and study at home

By Claire Brownell April 8, 2021

Owner of The Workshop Dance Studio, Nancy Morgan, gives a tap dance class via video in Kemptville Ontario, February 27 2021 (Photograph by Kaja Tirrul)

[Excerpt] When Ontario was thrown into its first lockdown in March 2020, the Workshop Dance Studio owner Nancy Morgan moved her classes online. But with a clientele mostly made up of seniors living in the rural area near the eastern Ontario town of Kemptville, the transition was not a smooth one.

Overnight, Morgan became a technical support worker in addition to being a tap dance instructor and business owner. She estimates that she and her son, who she’s enlisted to help, spend five to six hours a week giving her clients one-on-one help setting up accounts, finding the classes and troubleshooting. But no matter how much time and attention she provides, she can’t solve the biggest problem they face: internet service too weak to carry a live online dance class.

“There’s nothing worse than watching lag and things spinning, spinning, spinning,” Morgan says. “There are lots of my clients who have just put it on the shelf. They don’t even want to try, because it was such a nightmare for them.”

Rural Canadians have always struggled with poor-quality internet, but the pandemic turned the problem into an emergency for those trying to keep businesses afloat and educate children from home. Internet performance data collected by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), and provided exclusively to Maclean’s for the post-pandemic edition of our Best Communities ranking, reveals that in each of Canada’s 417 municipalities with more than 9,000 people—including the biggest cities, like Toronto—many people live with web connections that aren’t sufficient to work or study from home.

Assuming remote work is here to stay, Maclean’s ranked communities across the country with an eye to what makes for a great place to live for people who don’t have to worry about finding a job within commuting distance. Since it’s impossible to work remotely without high-quality internet, we asked CIRA to provide data on each of those communities. The association gathered the information as part of its Internet Performance Test Program, which invites Canadians across the country to test their internet speeds.

BEST COMMUNITIES 2021: Why Atlantic Canada comes out on top

Unsurprisingly, all the communities that fell below the highest rating were outside major cities, where internet infrastructure and services are most concentrated. The Maclean’s ranking looked only at relatively densely populated areas—internet quality in smaller, more remote communities is even worse.

To read more, click on: The pandemic has exposed Canada’s internet problem

Is it OK to mix and match different vaccines?

U.K. trial explores scientific potential of more flexible vaccine rollouts

CBC News · Posted: Mar 26, 2021 

A woman gives the thumbs up after receiving her first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic in Toronto’s east end run by the Scarborough Health Network last week. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we’ve received more than 72,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Does your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine have to be the same brand as your first?

Health officials don’t recommend having different types of COVID-19 vaccines for your two shots, but doctors say a unique clinical trial in the United Kingdom could inform a more flexible rollout in Canada.

People like Joseph Frisina of Montreal are asking CBC News about the pluses and minuses of receiving a first dose of one vaccine and a different brand for the second shot.

Frisina said he received his first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Quebec and plans to be in the U.S. when time comes for his second, where he’ll likely be offered Pfizer-BioNTech. He wants to know if it could be risky.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said she doesn’t see any reason to be worried about safety.

Barrett likens the first shot of the two-dose coronavirus vaccines to giving your immune system an elementary school education. The second dose broadens the response to a university level.

“What your first shot does is it sends up a battle cry, if you will, to your immune system to rally those specific troops together to get an immune response that’s good to this particular part of COVID vaccine and then it adds some memory,” Barrett said.

“The quality of the immune response after one shot is generally OK, but still not highly sophisticated.”

That’s why federal, provincial and territorial health officials all recommend that people be fully immunized to protect against COVID-19.

To read more, click on

Some family doctors in B.C. now accepting new patients

Some family doctors in B.C. now accepting new patients
Penny Daflos

Multi-media journalist, CTV News Vancouver
June 27, 2020 

VANCOUVER — For the first time in years, if you ask a family doctor in Metro Vancouver if they can take you on as a patient you actually have a good chance of hearing “yes.”

Several general practitioners and the professional association Doctors of BC all tell CTV News that patient rosters are opening up for the first time in years due to two factors: a slowdown in visits to doctors overall, and the efficiencies found in virtual health-care services that expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There have definitely been some anecdotal stories that (telehealth and virtual health) are increasing the number of spaces and that may be true or not, it’s too early to tell, because unfortunately not everyone is seeing their physician,” explained Doctors of BC President, Dr. Kathleen Ross, who says doctors can handle more patients in the day via phone or video chat.

While all health-care providers are urging people needing medical attention to call in advance to determine if a virtual appointment is sufficient, doctors are still seeing patients in their offices for assessments that need the human touch. That dual approach is allowing multi-doctor clinics like Aquarius Medical to treat more patients than before.

“Before, we were limited in available (space) and weren’t taking new patients, but now … the space isn’t such a problem, so we are able to once again take new patients,” said Aquarius medical director Dr. Linda Jando. “We are seeing a lot of mental health issues through the pandemic, but we’re seeing a lot of our usual patients coming in for headaches, backaches, bladder infections, skin rashes — the typical stuff we usually see.”

Doctors have been urging people who need immediate medical attention, medication or continuing care to see their physician or attend a walk-in clinic, urgent care centre or emergency department as needed. Visits are down across the board, with doctors blaming nervousness to be around sick people during a pandemic and the misplaced belief that doctors are too busy with COVID-19 patients to see anyone else.

So many people are staying away, medical professions in a range of fields worry there may be collateral damage of the pandemic as chronic health conditions go untreated or minor issues develop into complex, long-term problems.

At the same time, the Canadian Medical Association recently conducted a nationwide survey that found about half of Canadian have had a virtual appointment, with 91 per cent satisfied with the experience.

Ross suggests anyone looking for a family doctor approach their local primary care practice or ask a doctor they like during a virtual or walk-in clinic visit if they’re taking new patients. She’s also urging anyone hesitant about a remote appointment to at least call their family doctor to discuss any health issues they may have.

“As physicians, we miss that hands-on, face-to-face connection with our patients, as well, using only virtual care,” said Ross. “However, that’s where we are for the moment, so I encourage patients to reach out, speak to their family doctor if they have one, or to contact their local division of family practice if they don’t have a family doctor and are looking for one.” 
@PennyDaflos Contact