MLA Report

By Carole James

I am deeply concerned about the lawsuit launched by Dr. Brian Day to further privatize our health care system. I believe that publicly funded, publicly delivered health care is the best choice – both for patients and for taxpayers.

Peer-reviewed studies have shown that public health care leads to better health outcomes, and we know that a publicly-funded system is more cost effective than US-style for-profit health care. British Columbians and Canadians cherish a health care system in which access to care does not depend on the ability to pay.

I believe that this lawsuit must be vigorously fought because it represents a serious threat to public health care as we know it – where the quality of care you receive does not depend on the size of your bank account. There is no denying that failure and inaction by the BC Liberal government gave a toehold to privatized medicine in this province, and private clinics have taken full advantage.

The government has also allowed waitlists for critical surgeries like hip and knee replacements to grow to among the worst in Canada, and waitlists for diagnostic procedures like MRIs to become among the worst in the developed world. Many citizens, including many seniors, have been waiting months and even years for hip and knee replacements, cataract surgeries, and necessary diagnostics like MRIs and CAT scans.

I believe we need public innovation, not privatization, to reduce lengthy waitlists. Leading with innovation has been achieved in places like Scotland, where wait-time solutions have improved the quality of care patients receive.

BC could move immediately to:

Maximize surgical capacity and optimize operating room performance in the public system;

Manage waitlists through a centralized “first available surgeon” referral system;

Modernize and integrate information systems to reflect entire patient journeys;

Improve access to community and home care.

In 2010, the provincial government promised that every British Columbian who wanted a family doctor would have one within five years. At the time, the government estimated that about 615,000 people were without a family doctor, and 176,000 of them were actively looking for one.

The BC Liberals re-stated that promise as part of their 2013 election campaign, calling it the GP4Me program. By early 2015, the government acknowledged to the House that they had broken that promise.

In fact the situation is now worse. This spring in the Legislature, Health Minister Terry Lake admitted that the numbers have increased to 700,000 people without a family doctor and 200,000 actively looking for one.

This government made a promise it had no intention of keeping, and now hundreds of thousands of citizens are without a family doctor. This lack of access to family practitioners ends up costing our health system more. Problems can go undiagnosed for longer, and can result in further fragmenting of the delivery of health services.

British Columbia should be looking at team-based approaches to care and expanding community-health centres. Nurse practitioners, dieticians and social workers can all play a role in the efficient delivery of services, and evidence shows that community-health centresproduce better outcomes for patients and save governments money. My family and I were fortunate to benefit from exactly that model of care when the James Bay Community Project was founded. This is exactly the kind of model that should be supported and expanded.

This government has also refused to acknowledge that many British Columbians don’t have their medications covered by the BC Pharmacare plan. Thousands of people in this province are forced to make unacceptable choices every day about whether they can pay for medically-necessary drugs or buy the groceries that they and their families need.

It is good news that the federal government is expressing a willingness to engage with all provinces on a national pharmacare strategy, and recognizes the benefit of economies of scale on bulk buying. But much more needs to be done to make prescription drugs affordable for all British Columbians. The lack of a national pharmacare program is a glaring hole in our public health care system, and British Columbia should be advocating for it, instead of being satisfied with half measures.

These are just a few of the ideas we could be implementing to strengthen and improve our public health care system, rather than going down the road to privatization. Along with my Official Opposition colleagues in the Legislature, I will continue to push the government to plan and implement quality, accessible public health care across this province. I appreciate hearing your concerns and perspectives on this and any other issues of interest to you.

1084 Fort Street                                                                                                                                Victoria, BC V8V 3K4                                                                                                                        Phone: 250 952-4211