The Northern Health Connections’ bus offers discount fares for patients from Prince Rupert travelling to Vancouver for appointments.

Ill Communication

An open letter on the miscommunication between doctors’ offices in Vancouver and Prince Rupert patients travelling to an appointment.

The miscommunication between doctors’ offices in the Lower Mainland with patients travelling to an appointment from the North Coast struck a nerve with one man who decided to write an open letter addressing the issue, as published in this issue.

Grant Derry has experienced this first hand and has said that many others in the area have had the same problem.

In his letter he states that the problem is the follow up visits. The cost to travel to Vancouver is expensive; flights, meals, hotels and the time reserved off work.

After going to the appointment, he is told to return home. A few days later he receives a phone call from the specialist’s office requesting that he return for a follow up appointment within the next couple of days.

It would be easy enough if he lived in Vancouver, but not if he had already flown back to Prince Rupert.

“They apparently seem to have no conception of where we are and what we have to do to get there,” Derry wrote in the letter.

He continues, “I have talked to several other people and it seems that I am not the only person whose life and finances have been adversely affected by this problem.”

He states that he is not asking for funding, he just wants better communication between doctors and patients.

“We have to go 500 miles every time and for them to say you have to be here for noon tomorrow? A little sense involved is what we’re looking for,” Derry said.

The letter was brought to Northern Health’s attention, however the issue described by Derry involves private practitioners — a physician to a specialist. This situation does not pertain to Northern Health, which does not oversee private practitioners and how their administration sorts out appointments.

Northern Health’s communications spokesperson, Jonathon Dyck said that complaints — in this case — should be directed to a hospital’s patient care quality office or to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

As for travel costs, Northern Health Connections ( offer discounted round-trip bus fairs for people living in Prince Rupert who have to travel to other locations including, Prince George, Kamloops or Vancouver for health services.

It costs $80 to book a Northern Health Connection bus from Prince Rupert to Vancouver, with an overnight stay in Prince George.

The discount bus service for patients does not pay for hotel or other travel costs but it does provide “medical room rates” at select hotels.

Derry also sent the open letter to MLA Jennifer Rice.

She responded to him, as the opposition spokesperson for northern and rural health in the provincial government, requesting that he ask others to share their stories with her as well.

Rice stated that over the next four months she will be on a province-wide “information gathering tour in order to gain a better understanding of health care-related challenges faced by those living in northern and rural areas”.

Although Rice’s tour is focused on maternal health care she said in the letter that she also welcomes the opportunity to discuss other issues about access to and delivery of healthcare in rural B.C.

(See the open letter below)

Better medical communication needed


Receptionists (assistants) in Lower Mainland doctors’ offices seem to have little or no conception of where people outside of their immediate area come from and the trouble that they have getting to these doctors.

The problems encountered include flight expenses, hotel and meal expenses, miscellaneous ground transportation around Vancouver and from the airport, and the time involved getting to and from Vancouver, especially if time must be taken from work.

This is not a bid for funding, although it should be recognized that one of these trips using air travel along with hotels etc. can easily cost more than $1,000, that is if you can get on the aircraft.

At present we have have only one functioning airline in Prince Rupert. Considering the nature of these trips, taking the time to get to the terminal in Terrace is time consuming and adds stress for people who are unwell as it is. It can also be very hazardous to travel this highway in the winter.

The main problem with all of this seems to be the follow up visits. The initial trip and incurring difficulties are understandable because of where we live. We are informed by phone that we have an appointment then take the appropriate action. It is the follow up visits that cause most of the problem.

We got to the first appointment and then get dismissed and told that we can go home. This is all the information that we have. Often within a few days we will get a phone call requesting that we come back in for an appointment for tests or a follow up within the next couple of days. When the person on the phone is asked “do you know where we are?” the answer is usually “no” and they don’t really seem to care. They apparently seem to have no conception of where we are and what we have to do to get there. It does not seem uncommon for them to call and ask us to show up the next day.

It would seem that these people should be able to inform us of the possibilities of ongoing appointments or visits with other doctors or medical centers such as the cancer clinic, etc., and try to streamline the process to include them as well. This would give us the option to remain there for whatever time it may take. It would also give us the option to  make ongoing travel arrangements for future visits.

It wouldn’t seem that this is the problem of the doctors but of the communication link between the doctors and the patients.

I have talked to several other people and it seems that I am not the only person whose life and finances have been adversely affected by this problem. Talking to the people involved has given no results so I thought I would try your office in the hope that you could assist with this problem.

Grant Derry

Prince Rupert

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