By Hugh Holland
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”
Rotary International was founded in Chicago Illinois in 1905 by a young lawyer named Paul Harris who missed the fellowship of the small town where he grew up. In order to get acquainted in his new surroundings, he invited a few business associates to get together socially and to “rotate” social meetings among their offices. That was the modest start. Since then, Rotary has become the world’s largest service club with over 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in over 160 countries.
The Rotary Foundation was later established to enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty. In over 100 years, the Rotary Foundation has spent more than $4 billion on life changing, sustainable projects both in local communities and around the world.
The Rotary Club of Huntsville was founded in 1934 with newspaper publisher Harmon E. Rice as the charter president. The Huntsville club has completed hundreds of local and international projects over the past 85 years.
In 1957, Rotary established the Paul Harris Fellow recognition to encourage and show appreciation for substantial contributions to the Rotary Foundation. The Paul Harris recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 US to the Rotary Foundation.
In a special event at the Royal Canadian Legion on August 7, The Rotary Club of Huntsville honored Dr. Roy Kirkpatrick as a Paul Harris Fellow in recognition of his outstanding service as a general surgeon. Rotarians George Young and Hugh Holland outlined how Dr. Kirkpatrick exemplifies the Rotary ideal of “Service above Self” with his local, national and international service.
Dr. Kirkpatrick has served 32 years in Muskoka Algonquin Health Care hospitals. He served in short-term assignments with CUSO in New Guinea, The Red Cross in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders in Pakistan and in Canada’s northern communities of Iqaluit and Moose Factory. He continues to serve as an Associate Professor of Surgery for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and in various committees of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Global Health through the University of British Columbia.
Following the presentation of the Paul Harris Fellow certificate and pin by Club President Dr. Drew Markham, Dr. Kirkpatrick reviewed his experiences in Iqaluit and Moose Factory. Here are some of the highlights.
Frobisher Bay (later Iqaluit) on the eastern edge of Baffin Island was visited by explorer Martin Frobisher in 1576 when he got lost on an attempt to find a northern route to China. Later, the government of Canada initiated forced relocations of indigenous people into the area in order to protect Canada’s sovereignty over the area.
Today, Nunavut is Canada’s newest, largest and most northerly territory with an area of two million square kilometers (about twice the size of Ontario and almost three times the size of Texas). The Nunavut population of 33,000 (about the same as Huntsville and Bracebridge combined) and its health care system face enormous challenges; the most difficult in the country. Nunavut is served by a 35-bed hospital in the capital of Iqaluit and 24 nursing stations scattered across this vast region. Patients are often referred by a nursing station to Iqaluit. The more serious cases are referred to Edmonton or Montreal.
There are five doctors per 10,000 people in Nunavut compared to 20 per 10,000 in southern Canada locations. Health outcomes are below the national averages because long and difficult travel often results in late or no treatment. There is a need to prepare more far-north people for important jobs in the far north. School graduation rates in Nunavut vs the Canadian average are 24 per cent vs. 78 per cent at the high school level and 3 per cent vs. 30 per cent at the post-secondary level. Walking to work in temperatures of -50 °C was a memorable experience.
Moose Factory, Ontario was established as an early post of the Hudson’s Bay company on an island where the Moose River enters James Bay. The town of Moosonee is on the adjacent mainland. The area is considered the gateway to the Arctic. The combined population is about 3,500 with 85 per cent being indigenous people.
The hospital at Moose Factory was built on the island in 1949 in order to isolate tuberculosis patients. Today, the hospital serves a wide area and is staffed by 12 doctors and one surgeon who is on call 24/7. The surgeon position is often staffed by surgeons from Kingston, Toronto, Sudbury and Timmins doing rotating two-week turns. This is not ideal, but it gets the job done. In shoulder seasons, doctors often travel to and from the island by helicopter. Hospital facilities are adequate but lack some of the latest equipment common to southern hospitals.
Dr. Kirkpatrick’s northern work turns underscore the difficulties and challenges in providing quality health care or indeed any other services to Canada’s most remote indigenous communities.
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