YEAR IN REVIEW: How public health made headlines across the Thompson-Okanagan this year

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - From the difficulties of finding a family doctor in the Thompson-Okanagan to tainted drinking water, this year has been filled with controversial public health stories.

We’ve investigated, heard your concerns and brought to light issues within public health care.

Manure is spread on the 210 acre field owned by HS Jansen and Sons Farm Ltd. in Vernon.This practice sparked controversy among Spallumcheen residents after they were put on a water advisory in 2014.
Manure is spread on the 210 acre field owned by HS Jansen and Sons Farm Ltd. in Vernon.This practice sparked controversy among Spallumcheen residents after they were put on a water advisory in 2014.
Image Credit: Al Price


North Okanagan residents voiced their concerns about a farm’s practice of spraying manure above a drinking water aquifer. Around 200 Spallumcheen residents have been on a water advisory since 2014, but those people got a better understanding of where the high nitrate levels in the water were coming from after B.C.’s privacy commissioner ordered the province to release documents potentially linking the spraying to nitrate levels. For more on the Hullcar Aquifer, go here.

Despite receiving a $75,000 fine and warning the first time around, the Vernon school district again violated asbestos management regulations this year. A WorkSafeBC investigation showed several orders related to an incident at the Open Door Learning Centre this summer. A renovation worker reported there could have been asbestos in the pre-1990 building materials, but no work stoppage was ordered.

Scott and Paul May with a photo of their parents. Their father, Bill May, was killed by his roommate at a care home for patients with complex behavioural issues.
Scott and Paul May with a photo of their parents. Their father, Bill May, was killed by his roommate at a care home for patients with complex behavioural issues.


Families voiced their concerns in 2016, over two separate care home attacks claimed the lives of two patients more than three years ago. A coroner's report released this year recommended changes to a Kamloops care home after the death of 79-year-old Jack Shippobotham, a dementia patient who wandered into another resident’s room. This death happened shortly before the death of 85-year-old Bill May at a Vernon care home, who died at the hands of his delusional roommate.

Four years after the death of a North Okanagan man, his lawsuit against the Interior Health Authority still lives on. Eric Nolting filed the suit in 2012, claiming doctors never notified him of a cancerous mole in 2007. But according to court documents, more than four years after Nolting’s death in December 2012, his case is still being heard. Lawyers are expected to bring it to trial next summer.

A tax increase is expected to affect Kamloops residents on the heels of a proposed new tower for Royal Inland Hospital. The new increase will see an average hike of $20 in property taxes and will help cover the hospital district’s $172-million portion of two linked construction projects at the hospital.

An always controversial issue, marijuana dispensaries made some ground in Penticton this year, where two dispensaries were granted temporary permits. The permits were originally scheduled to be for 18 months, but council decided six months was more appropriate.

A popular cosmetic trend among women this year has been eyebrow tattoos, but the growing popularity prompted a warning from the Interior Health Authority this year. IHA warned microblading could lead to serious blood-health risks, so iNFOnews.ca looked into the best ways to protect yourself if you’re considering the procedure.

There was also concern this year over the high demand for flu shots in the Interior. Some pharmacies had signs in front of their businesses indicating they were out of the flu vaccine. It came just ahead of flu season, but IHA was able to get more vaccines to the affected pharmacies in a reasonable time.

A Vernon woman learned the hard way this year that despite having a family doctor, they could “drop you” off their patient list. Michelle Schroth received a letter in February from her family doctor, indicating the office was getting copies of walk-in clinic visits. Since Schroth and her children had been visiting a walk-in, their family doctor terminated their relationship.

MLAs Terry Lake(left) and Todd Stone(right) announced new measures this year to accommodate patients in need of family doctors in Kamloops.
MLAs Terry Lake(left) and Todd Stone(right) announced new measures this year to accommodate patients in need of family doctors in Kamloops.


But that was far from the only controversy surrounding the availability of family doctors. Kamloops has had issues for years with family doctors in the city not accepting new patients. This year B.C.’s health minister and local MLA Terry Lake announced a plan to help solve those issues, including new primary care centres and expanding capacities at clinics.

Another part of the plan was introducing a new pillar to the already existing HealthLink B.C. Service. The 811 number is now available for Kamloops residents to call and put their name on a wait list for a family physician, but as we found out with this story, it could be a long time before people are actually moved off the waitlist.

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