It is a milestone worthy of a delicious cake.
With many communities across Canada losing their doctors, Armstrong’s Haugen Community Healthcare Society (HCHS) celebrated its 14th anniversary of the opening of the doctors’ offices on Smith Drive with a cake ceremony Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Armstrong philanthropist Dwight Johnson saluted the society, calling 14 years operating in small-town Canada a huge accomplishment.
“When you think of the medical office, we think of health and services to the elderly so they don’t have to drive down the highway,” said Johnson. “What (Dr. McClellan) Kira and her team bring to us is not only great medical service, but it makes our community whole…Your contribution to the community, Kira, is more than just being in half of this building.”
McClellan and HCHS president Sandra Borden cut the beautiful white cake for about a dozen or so guests (and current patients waiting to see their doctor). The cake was brought in by former Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper, who Johnson called a driving force in bringing clarity and reality to the situation in 2009 when the society formed after the communities of Armstrong and Spallumcheen were faced with their doctors leaving town.
HCHS is a non-profit organization whose only source of income comes from donations, grants, fundraising, and membership fees.
The society once held a yearly gala as a main source of its fundraising, but the event was lost to COVID-19.
While the 14-year anniversary was worth the cake and circumstance, Borden wonders how many more anniversaries may be celebrated.
HCHS provides support for the offices of the Haugen Medical Group. After more than a decade with no increases and with a new 10-year lease agreement being put into place, it has resulted in a long overdue increase in the funding costs from HCHS.
“We need to get the word out that the society continues to need monetary support from the communities of Armstrong and Spallumcheen to provide and maintain doctors in our communities,” said Borden. “We are relying on our communities to take an active role in supporting this facility.”
There are currently five doctors and one long-term locum working at the office, and there are more than 6,400 patients.
The doctors cover their own operating expenses, supplies, staffing and insurance. If every member of the two communities gave $20 annually, said the society, this would help to contribute to the cost of its operating expenses.
“It’s vital we keep our doctors in here,” said Borden, who has been with the society since its inception, and who is a volunteer driver of patients to the medical office.
“So many people cannot get to Vernon. Those of us who drive take it for granted. But we don’t have a bus service or taxi service. Without the doctors here, a lot of citizens in our communities would not be able to get to doctors.”
The board’s volunteer group has dwindled down to just five people. Those volunteers need help.
“We need new people to join our board,” said Borden. “We need new volunteers. We need corporate sponsors.”
Borden hinted that without financial help from the communities, it could be deja vu, like in 2009.
“Without the support from the communities there is a strong possibility that this facility could close and our area would be without doctors,” she said.
Donations can be made online through CanadaHelps.org or you can send a cheque payable to the Haugen Community Healthcare Society, P.O. Box 495, Armstrong B.C. V0E 1B2.