Extraordinary issues and ordinary citizens

Earlier this month, the Chilliwack Times's Paul Henderson reported a group calling themselves Citizens for Sustainable Health Care was handing out leaflets at a recent conversation on health regional public forum. And what is their interested in that discussion, you may wonder? Well, according to their Website, the group was established to give "ordinary citizens a voice in B.C.'s health care debate" - citizens who don't care who's providing their medical services as long as they're "provided 'free' at the point of delivery." And their principal orator's name is one that will recognizable to some of our New Westminster readers: Patrick O'Connor, who was Joyce Murray's constituency assistant when she was the city's MLA.

In an interview with Public Eye, Mr. O'Connor, who is acting president of the Liberal constituency association in that riding, explained Citizens for Sustainable Health Care is a volunteer organization, without any outside funding to-date. And it has no association with the Liberals. "I'm sure people will make that association," said Mr. O'Connor. "But that's not how I'm operating. If you look me up in New Westminster you can see I've always been a maverick community activist. I'm not shy about my opinions and going my own way on things." He also said Citizens for Sustainable Health Care isn't a reaction to Premier Gordon Campbell's suggestion that Liberals should become involved in the conversation on health. The following is an edited copy of an email from Mr. O'Connor explaining how the organization was founded.


From: Patrick O'Connor
Sent: 08 March 2007 10:27
To: 'Sean Holman'

Hi Sean,

Good talking to you this morning and thanks for your interest in our new group - Citizens for Sustainable Health Care.

As I said when we spoke, we're a volunteer group with plans to grow into a major voice for health care reform in B.C. We feel there is a big need for a group like ours to help balance the public debate. We want to bring forward information that isn't getting heard right now and ultimately we want to see solutions implemented that will actually improve B.C.'s health care system and make it sustainable and affordable over the long haul. We've had a great response from people so far and we're picking up support every day for what we're doing. We've discovered we're not the only ones who feel this way.

We have a growing Advisory Committee and very soon we will have an official spokesperson—but at this early stage I am the key driving figure in the group. Here is some information about myself and my background as promised.

I've lived in New Westminster for almost 17 years with my wife and our three children (two daughters, aged 16 and 13 years, and a son, aged 3 years). My wife and I both grew up in Vancouver. I was born at St. Paul's Hospital and I'm one year away from turning 50 - along with millions of other baby-boomers heading into their late-adulthood and seniority.

I have a history of community activism in New Westminster as you can see from the Royal City Record's online archive of articles and letters.

I've been particularly involved in school district issues over the last ten years and, more recently, I was involved in the formation of a non-partisan civic electors group in New Westminster with members from across the political spectrum (NDP, Liberal, Conservative, Green and BC Liberal).

As you know, I also served as Joyce Murray's Constituency Assistant when she was MLA. I'm a BC Liberal member and active in the local riding association. I've been temporarily holding the president's post for the past year because our previous president became ill - we will soon have new president taking over.

My desire to start a group like the Citizens for Sustainable Health Care came about during my time as Joyce's Constituency Assistant. I used to receive several calls each week in the constituency office from upset people who had been bumped from their scheduled hip replacement operation or who were sitting on an 18 month wait list for one procedure or test or another. By nature I am a problem solver and it was clear to me, even back then, that replacing hips in acute care hospitals was not working nor was it the most cost effective way to be doing hip replacements. Hip replacements are a routine procedure. For the most part the people who were calling the Constituency Office didn't need to be in an acute care hospital that was set up to handle crisis situations and complex, infectious health issues and diseases.

In talking to the people who called the Constituency Office, I was always struck by the fact that many people had never considered the fact that hip replacement operations could be carried out away from an acute care hospital setting. In fact, I discovered that people generally had a lot of incorrect information and plain old misinformation about the health care system and the issues facing us. I always felt that I'd helped the people who contacted the Constituency Office and I felt that I was able to give them something to think about. In a number of cases we were able to point people toward a specialist with a shorter waiting list than the one their doctor had referred them to.

I also kept Joyce and the ministry people in Victoria informed about the number of calls we were getting about wait lists for things like hip replacements, cataracts, and high tech diagnostic tests like MRI's and CT scans.

Emerging from all of this, I saw the need to form a citizen-based group like Citizens for Sustainable Health Care to bring forward better information to the public. We've now formed such a group and we're jumping right into the debate.

Regardless of what our individual political perspectives are, I think most people can agree where the problem areas are in our health care system; these have been clearly defined. What we at the Citizens for Sustainable Health Care are trying to do is to move the debate toward a discussion of solutions and help lay the groundwork for a sustainable health care system—one that can cope with the amazing technological and medical possibilities available to us in the 21st Century and one that can cope with the onslaught of the baby-boomers (like myself) who are now starting to have an impact on the health care system. (Note: As I mentioned when we spoke, I myself benefited from what can only have been a costly Lithotrispy procedure at VGH last summer to break up my first ever kidney stone—I'm now wondering how long it will be before my hips need to be replaced just like my father's were back in the mid 1990's—and, as I indicated, he did get bumped a couple of times from his scheduled surgeries.)

I hope this information is helpful to you. If I can answer any other questions or provide you with additional materials for any articles you may be planning or currently working on, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks again for your interest.

Patrick O'Connor


The notion that this person presents that "hip replacement operations could be carried out away from an acute care hospital setting.." as one of the reasons for starting this group is bizarre. It also confirms for me the fact that he and his liberal friends do have a secret agenda for their current health consultations.

Where does this bunch belive these operations should be done? Wal Mart? MacDonalds?

Having lived the past several years with a spouse who needed and eventually got hip replacement at a young age confirms for me the reasons why these very significant operations must be done in an accute care setting. What I can't understand is why the provincial liberals refuse to fund the operating theatre time to allow trained and dedicated doctors and staff to get through the waitlists, which are far too long and growing, no matter what fiction the Liberals want to spin.

The good news if there is any in this story is that the Liberal secret agenda for acute care surgury privatization is now out in the open!

This is revolting.

But even more alarming is the reality that the current Campbell-drive Conversation On Privatized Parts Replacement will soon be overshadowed by the clarity of direction that I sense will be offered up from the - er, - regions of Liberal policy advisors.

Ah, democracy. Who needs those long drawn out public processes, eh?

Hey Mike Eso, forget Walmart or McGuts. I'm looking for a big mobile to bring liposuction and whatever else you want right to the door step. And I'll have you back in your own bed before you wake up.

Blasphemy! Someone actually thinks that the delivery of our healthcare system should not be monopolized by the big labor Unions. Oh the horror of it all.

Big labour Unions?

Kevin, are you suggesting that the Campbell Liberals are going to force those BC Medical (union) Association members out of the industry as well?

And here I thought it was some of the doctors' brotherhood who were pushing to expand the BCMA's jurisdiction into private health care.

It sure sounds like for profit healthcare is on it's way.

Yes, the road is being
paved for 'profit healthcare' which
will be in my opinion ushered in through what is
considered, "not medically necessary " as per
the Canada Health Act.

If the government was so concerned with baloon
ing costs they should not have been as appeasing
with the unions, doctors and nurses when it
came to their demands for pay hikes to begin with.
But what choice did they have since these parties
had and still have the power to shut down the medical system.

What I find very interesting is the fact that
union members who are screaming the loudest
about the potential two tier health care
system being implemented have in fact had a part to play in its being established within this province because of their demands to begin with.

If these interested parties had not demanded so
much money, the crisis within the healthcare system might have been averted.

As it stands now, the government is in crisis mode
as it attempts to find ways to address this nightmare.

From the link in the post above by Sean Holman about the 'Citizens for Sustainable Health Care' I have to say that I agree with them. Throwing
more money at this nightmare is not the answer and 'paid for medical care' is not the way to go either. Restructure, streamline and other ideas as
seen on their web page makes sense and I can
definately get behind that.

And just in case anyone is wondering, I am not attached to any organization or interest in this
discussion other than that of a person with very
limited funds and a family member with severe medical needs that have not been properly addressed within the system as it is and I certainly do not have the funds for a two tier system that is pay for service delivery down the

By the way, I was quoted an initial $750
to have an assessment for a back injury at a
private clinic, since medical treatment for my debilitating back injury isn't deemed as "medically necessary" under our current system. That too needs to change.

Do I have the $750 bucks for the initial appointment.... I wish.

This is one of several reasons that I have lost
respect for public sector unions in general.

Poor as mud, your attack on the public sector unions suggest your thinking may also be a bit muddy.

Let's not forget that one of the first actions of the Campbell government in 2001 was to take a chainsaw to those public sector health unions.

You might also remember the Liberals opening the purse and buying off the public union sector with age increases just prior to the last provincial election so there would not be labour turmoil.

I can certainly appreciate you don't look forward to a $750 assessment for back pain but in the mean time, I'd urge you to change your pain meds because they have obviously got you quite muddled.

It's all about priorities, you know. That back pain might not be quite so accute if the Liberals didn't just announce another massive tax cut while tossing more money into the ever expanding Olympics chasm.

Why can't you get good public medical help when Carole Taylor is announcing billion dollar surpluses?


All these groups have received raises.

Yes the HEU took a hit, but there is a
big difference between mopping floors,
serving food and laundry and giving medical

Bottom line, no interest group be it doctor,
HEU, BCGEU or BCTF should hold a province
hostage when it comes to services that are

The BC government opted for labour stability
for peace to focus on the Olympics at the
expense of healthcare and now their in crisis management mode and restructer to save their bacon. My original point
was that no interested parties beit the unions,
doctors of even the BC government wanting the
Olympics to go smoothly should be looking after
their own interests or agendas at the 'expense'
of the health care system as we no it.

And as a low income person I do not want to see profit healthcare nor do I want to have precious tax paying dollars going to groups who are so self interested that they look at after their own interests before anyone else.

Finally, no matter how successful the olypics are, it will not change the fact that the healthcare system should have been priority for all parties concerned.

That was an 'editted version' of Mr. O'Connor's Email?


How long and how much more did he prostesth (too much?) in the original, full length version?


Poor as mud, you're now clear as glass and I agree with your argument.

Enough about the libearls.

Conservatives have gotten their candidate that will be replacing Dawn Black soon. Teacher Yohan Martin won the nomination race with a margin of 3 to 1. I look for her to become the first ever elected Korean Canadian MP.

I have a feeling that Ryan Warawa will soon win the nomination race in his riding as well. He and his dad will make an excellent power duo in Ottawa.

I've finally had a chance to read the comments people have posted in response to "Extraordinary issues and ordinary citizens." I'm more convinced than ever of the importance of what I'm doing and what we as the Citizens for Sustainable Health Care are doing. It really is time to skip over the tiresome rhetoric and get everyone talking about solutions that work for patients and for taxpayers.

As part of what we're doing with Citizens for Sustainable Health Care I went over to Victoria this past weekend to help hand out our brochures to people entering the Conversation on Health (and spend some time visiting relatives in Esquimalt and Oak Bay).

While handing out brochures in front of the Hotel Grand Pacific, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Art Kube who was organising a small group of a dozen or so demonstrators outside the Conversation. I'm certain that Mr. Kube is a nice man when you get to know him, but he took this friendly opportunity to launch into an hysterical, ideological rant about free trade and privatisation. It worries me that this is the man the COSCO seniors are following... For our part, the Citizens for Sustainable Health Care are going to keep the debate focused on what needs to change to ensure that our health care system is ready to cope with the needs of the baby boomers and ensure that it meets the needs of those who need it now.

Fortunately the people who were handing out brochures for Mr. Kube were more civilised and rational and I really enjoyed the conversations I had with them (notably with Reg and Adam). So I know there is hope here in BC to get past the crap and the self-serving rhetoric and get on with fixing our health care system once and for all to make it work for everyone.


Patrick O'Connor
Citizens for Sustainable Health Care

Patrick O'connor,

It's late in the evening and I just read what you
had to say. Well, I am going to say straight up
that what I had to say about self serving interests is not crap or rhetoric. In my opinion it is at the very heart of the problem at a foundation level.

Having said that, I can absolutely tell you that I have had my son who is now an adult bounced through the health care system since the day he was born and have experienced many, many flaws within the healthcare system and these flaws had not been funding related in my opinion, but directly associated to flawed service delivery on many levels. Furthermore, I truly believe the self interested parties in the last several years have only served to exacerbate the problems and push the system right over the edge.

And I would further say that I am confident that I have become an expert on the areas that need to be addressed.

While I absolutely applaud what I have seen on your website, your last post came off rather self
righteous and it kind of pissed me off.

You would be wise to stay above the frey of sounding like a politician in the making.

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