The crowd roared as Dr. Prean Armogam made his way down the aisle for the first ever screening of “Son of a Farmer” at the Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill.
The documentary, filmed by Nigel Edwards and produced by Winbox Media, was screened in the evening on Thursday, Nov. 16. While it was only 20 minutes in length, it still featured a deep dive into Armogam’s inspiring life story, explaining how he grew up as an Indian-Zulu in Apartheid South Africa, where he experienced racism and dealt with extreme trauma from witnessing violent deaths due to the political unrest in the country.
After deciding he wanted to leave the family business and become a doctor instead of a farmer, he eventually immigrated to the United Kingdom where he worked for five years before moving on to the Town of Port McNeill, where he’s been stationed for nearly 20 years now.
Armogam boasts a massive patient load, around 3,000 people, and he travels to numerous rural communities outside of Port McNeill such as Sointula, Rivers Inlet, Woss, and Zeballos. He also sees many patients from Port Hardy and Port Alice who make the drive to Port McNeill for his services.
When asked why he wanted to make the documentary, Armogam said he and Edwards were “talking about North Island stuff, and we were discussing what was happening in the region, and he stumbled onto the fact that there was malice and collusion happening that was fracturing our health care here.”
From there, Edwards quickly setup the camera and started filming.
The documentary also explained in detail all of Armogam’s numerous issues with the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
Armogam runs his own private clinic and was previously the medical director for the North Island, but he stated he was forced to step down from the director position due to speaking out against Island Health’s “poor resource management and executive administrative ineptitude.”
He even went so far as to threaten to shut down his private clinic due to a “lack of support” from Island Health.
Island Health’s response to this was to open their own clinic in town, the Port McNeill Primary Care Centre (A’ekaḵila’as). This decision forced Armogam to once again go out on his own and reopen his private clinic after both sides couldn’t come to a working agreement.
He noted that to this day, patients in the North Island still continue to experience closed labs and hospital ER’s “with dwindling community resources for those that have mental health challenges or are elderly.”
He confirmed that he feels Island Health is still operating with “a colonial mindset and their abuse of power continues with no accountability, transparency and equality in the region’s health care.”
Armogam stated that three local physicians have now had their hospital and ER privileges removed by Island Health, and there’s a decision being made regarding Armogam’s privileges later this week.
He feels Island Health is attacking him due to the fact he reported an incident back in 2020 where he thought at the time he’d overheard racial comments being made by Caucasian South African health-care professionals who were working at the local hospital.
“Despite asking the health authority executive to please be mindful of my past trauma, Island Health instead weaponized it to handle, control and bully me,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to the outcome regarding his ER privileges, which he feels is “disguised discipline.”
“We especially await the impact of this outcome, as well as a discussion of other issues raised that affect our regional health care.”
If you’re wondering, Armogam says physicians do not have a union.
“The Doctors of BC do try to advocate where they can,” he said, explaining this is why we haven’t seen a consent resolution announced for any of the issues at hand.
After the documentary ended, there was a short question and answer period where audience members took their turn expressing their dissatisfaction with Island Health’s services. A local return of service doctor, Anas Toweir, even stated proudly to the audience that he’s not under the health authority’s thumb.
Armogam said he felt “so much lighter” after the documentary finished screening in front of the soldout crowd filled with all of his supporters, and that it was cathartic for him to finally tell people “the real reasons behind what Island Health is actually up to.”
The North Island Gazette asked Armogam afterwards what actor he’d want to play himself if they ever made a film about his life. He laughed and said, “Honestly, I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.”
“Son of a Farmer” will be making the rounds at film festivals in the near future, you can learn more about the short documentary online.