News Releases

Helping rural, remote and Indigenous communities respond to COVID-19

Monday, April 20, 2020 
A new collaborative framework will help ensure people living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities in B.C. have access to critical health care they can count on to meet their unique needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.  

“People living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities have unique challenges in accessing the health care they need,” said Premier John Horgan. “This new collaborative framework will bring immediate relief to these communities, including a commitment to moving patients to the critical care they need at a moment’s notice. This will help our work to stop the spread of COVID-19, while supporting better health outcomes into the future.”

The framework was developed through a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and Provincial Health Services Authority. The work is guided by the principles of cultural safety and humility, and adds to work underway by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.

First Nations members can access Virtual Doctor of the Day online:

The latest COVID-19modelling presentation and information is available online:

For information on how returning travellers can submit self-isolation plans, visit: 

For mental health and anxiety support, visit:  

For the latest medical updates, including case counts and information on how to protect yourself and your community, visit:
Or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.

For the provincial health officer’s orders, notices and guidance, visit:

For non-health related information, including financial, child care and education supports, travel, transportation and essential service information, visit: 
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

To use the online COVID-19 self-assessment tool or to download the app, visit:

For the latest videos and livestreaming of COVID-19 media availabilities, visit:

To access the framework, clink on:
Helping rural, remote and Indigenous communities respond to COVID-19


Rural Emergency Departments & COVID19

Ottawa, ON: March 21, 2020

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians & The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada

Canada’s rural population, which includes many Indigenous communities, requires equitable access and care close to their homes. Infrastructure, human resources, geography and weather impact rural medical outcomes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that urban and rural referral sites support each other and act as a unified system of emergency care. It is critical that Canada’s rural Emergency Departments (EDs) remain open and staffed. It is of national interest to avoid unnecessary rural patient transfers to urban and tertiary care centres already at full capacity. Similarly, robust repatriation of patients back to their rural origin will optimize tertiary care capacity. Some rural regional hospitals have ICUs, in-situ ventilator capability, and a core generalist specialty service but require specific attention and support.

Rural Canadian resources are ill equipped for the pandemic. Rural EDs are much smaller and have limited human health resources making it difficult to mitigate staff illness, self-isolation/quarantine requirements and burn-out. The staffing models and service impacts are also different. Full scope rural family practice generalists cover multiple community roles simultaneously. In addition to ED coverage they provide office practice, inpatient and long-term care, maternity and obstetrics, OR assisting, chemotherapy, remote clinic oversight, Indigenous population outreach and transfer medicine to name a few.

Rural Canadian hospitals are now struggling with supply chains of basic medications (MDI, antibiotics, sedation agents), testing supplies and Personal Protective Equipment. Coupled with more prolonged testing turnaround times and fewer resources for managing and educating staff, there needs to be increased attention to rural access to care during the COVID19 pandemic.


1. National licencing/credentialing: establishment of emergency pan-Canadian licensure of health care workers. Create a standardized national system for rapid / dynamic intra-provincial and cross-provincial regulatory licensing. Improving provincial health authority credentialing and privileging for multiple jurisdictions (rural to urban, urban to rural).

2. Utilize new grads: mandate that recently graduating MDs with provisional licenses (because of delayed formal certification exams) can do locums, be assigned billing numbers and sign employment contracts.

3. Increased Funding and coverage: Federal and provincial funding mandated to respond immediately to increase number of temporary rural positions. The majority of rural EDs are staffed with single physician coverage.

4. Create Rapid Rural Relief Teams: creation and deployment of centralized provincial teams that include MDs, core generalist specialties, RNs and Respiratory Therapists.

To access the full article, click on the TITLE


24/7 mental health support on the way for post-secondary students

News Release
January 28, 2020

The Province has selected Morneau Shepell to develop a free mental health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students throughout British Columbia.

After a rigorous procurement process, Morneau Shepell was chosen to create and operate a 24/7 mental health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students at all public and private post-secondary institutions in B.C. The company will provide on-demand, immediate counselling and referral support to almost half a million students in B.C.’s public and private post-secondary institutions. 

“Mental health is an issue our government takes seriously,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “Post-secondary students have told me there is a gap in mental heath support services. The stress students feel at university or college can be significant, and can lead to serious isolation and potentially deadly outcomes. I am proud our government is responding to this call to action by creating a place for students to reach out for help 24/7.”

This mental health service will mean for the first time in B.C., every student – whether rural, urban, domestic, international, public, private, full-time or part-time – will have access to 24/7 services to supplement services on campus and in the community. As this provincewide program is a new service, the ministry will take the time to engage with students and post-secondary institutions on the design of the service before launch in spring 2020.

“Many students don’t come forward and ask for the help they need because of the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This service will meet young people where they are at and provide them immediate access to someone to talk to, without shame or judgement.” 

Morneau Shepell administers the largest clinical network in Canada. It has delivered mental health solutions since 1974 and services more than 20,000 organizations world-wide. Morneau Shepell supports more than 3,800 clients across all services in B.C. and more than 200 post-secondary institutions across North America, directly and via partnerships, through its student support programs.

The three-year contract has a budget of $1.5 million per year.

Improving mental health in schools is an integral part of government’s actions outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making the system of mental health and addictions care better for people no matter where they live in the province.

Implementing A Pathway to Hope is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.


BC Rural Health Network appoints Connie Howe as Administrator

Connie Howe and Edward Staples

January 10, 2020

The BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) is very pleased to announce that Connie Howe has been named as its new Administrator.  After almost two years of development work by a dedicated Board of Directors, Howe becomes the first paid staff of the Network.

BCRHN provides rural British Columbians with a strong and unified voice advocating for the improvement of healthcare services. 

“An Administrator endowed with Connie Howe’s background and skills comes along all too seldom” says Ed Staples, BCRHN President.    Howe has just stepped aside from being Executive Director of Princeton and District Community Services Society.  She is well versed on the needs of rural residents and the operations of a major not for profit society.

Funding for the Administrator is supported by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC and the British Columbia Academic Health Science Network.  Both organizations recognize the valuable contribution the BC Rural Health Network is making in the enhancement of rural health services.  BCRHN will now have the professional administrative skills needed to meet its goals and objectives.  “Howe’s 30 years of experience with community services programs is just what the doctor ordered” adds Staples.


For Immediate Release
November 18, 2019
(Unceded Coast Salish Territories – Vancouver, BC) 

On Monday, November 18th, final arguments began in the Charter challenge that put public health care on trial.

The legal attack launched by one of the largest for-profit clinics in Canada seeks to invalidate key protections in the BC Medicare Protection Act which prohibit physician extra billing and duplicate private insurance for medically necessary procedures.This case is the most serious threat that the public health care system has ever faced. It seeks to erase from our laws the fundamental concept of care based on need, not ability to pay. 

“We joined this court case because we believe in defending a public health care system where everyone is covered, everyone is treated equally, and no one goes broke paying for their care,” said Edith MacHattie, a representative of the Coalition Intervenors, which includes the BC Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

“Brian Day and his lawyers have argued that it’s okay to profit off people’s illnesses. We disagree. All that this case has proven is that a private for-profit system would improve access for the healthiest and wealthiest while creating longer wait times for everybody else. Privatized for-profit health care means that you’ll pay more, get less and be worse off.“ continued MacHattie to a group of community members gathered outside the courthouse

Contrary to CEO Day’s claims, this case is not about protecting patients’ rights or solving the issue of wait times. Cambie Surgeries has not proven that the laws protecting public health care cause lengthy wait times or harm patients’ access to care. Instead, the evidence has shown that public solutions are the best cure for the problem of wait times, and allowing a private tier of health care would worsen wait times for all but the wealthy, and drain resources from the public system.

In Australia, private insurance was encouraged with the goal of reducing wait times, but in fact what occurred is that wait times in the public sector did not improve; in areas where private health care was most used, wait times in the public system went up. [Defendant’s Closing Submissions, p. 375-376]

Expansion of private insurance and care would disproportionately impact patients who are not considered “profitable” in the private system. Glyn Townsend, standing in front of a banner that read “Save Our Medicare”, spoke about the negative impact of a two-tier healthcare system on those with complex health issues and chronic illnesses.

Glyn, who has required health care to monitor and treat his HIV for almost 30 years – has been able to access care because Canada’s health care is publicly funded. If Glyn had been forced to pay for his necessary hospital visits, which have included admission for chicken pox and one for severe shingles, he might have been forced to choose between his health and bankruptcy.

The final arguments of the controversial case will be heard over the next 3 weeks. 

Ayendri Riddell
Campaigner, BC Health Coalition
Phone:  604-787-6560
British Columbia Health Coalition · 3102 Main St, 302, Vancouver,
Unceded Coast Salish Territories, BC V5T 3G7, Canada 



For immediate release:
Kelowna, BC
May 11, 2019

The BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN), advocating for improvement in health
delivery systems in rural communities throughout British Columbia, burst on the
scene officially this past Saturday. In existence since December, 2017, the
BCRHN has rapidly gained a strong advocacy reputation in the province.

The BCRHN held its first Annual General Meeting in Kelowna (May 11, 2019) where member organizations elected a Board of Directors and ratified their Constitution and Bylaws.

Over the past year, in meetings with other provincial health organizations, Health Authorities and the Ministry of Health, the BCRHN has proven to be a reliable partner as it advocates for improved access to health resources for British Columbians living outside the urban core areas.

Ed Staples, President of the Support Our Health Care Society in Princeton, is one of the founders of the BC Rural Health Network and has served as its Chair for the past year. At the AGM Staples stated that, “our primary purpose is to present a strong and unified voice for change and by sharing our success stories with each other we can identify our common concerns and tackle them together.”
One way to help resolve these identified health service delivery problems is the emerging Community Health Centre initiative. The Community Health Centre model has had considerable success throughout Canada and it presents a real opportunity for improving access to primary health care in rural BC.

In its short history, the BC Rural Health Network has grown from six founding members to 34 members, representing all regions of the province. This new society looks forward to working collaboratively with our members and partners in our efforts to improve the health and well-being of rural British Columbians.