Community health centres

In a previous post, I shared how the BC Greens have been protecting healthcare and why privatization isn’t a solution for our ailing universal system.

So, if private healthcare isn’t the answer, what will it take to fix healthcare in BC?

BC Greens have been working on that answer for several years now. There are no easy fixes, but given the right leadership and resources, we can shift the trajectory of public healthcare in BC.

We need to think in 21st century terms, and that begins with the “community healthcare model”.

Like now, under the community healthcare model, you would be registered with a primary care office where you would go whenever you need support for your health. But unlike now, there would be many different healthcare professionals working out of that one place, not just family doctors.

Most community care centres would provide primary care though family doctors and nurse practitioners (NPs). NPs have similar training and scope of practice to family doctors. You could see either one for most of your needs - they would be your main contacts for ongoing support, tests and access to specialists. By incorporating nurse practitioners, we can quickly scale up access to primary care for British Columbians who don't have a family doctor.

With community healthcare, family doctors and nurse practitioners aren’t responsible for administrative duties, business management, or routine procedures, like they are under today's healthcare model. The government would provide the administrative infrastructure to take care of that work, so that doctors and nurse practitioners are free to focus on what they are trained for - caring for patients.

You would also find other healthcare practitioners like physician's assistants, psychologists, pharmacists and physiotherapists at community health centres.

Together, family doctors, nurse practitioners and this broader team of healthcare professionals would collaborate on your healthcare needs to provide a more integrated approach with less bureaucracy. 

Imagine if you went to your family doctor or nurse practitioner seeking support for your mental health, and they could immediately refer you to a psychologist who works in the same office; they know each other and can work together to support you. The same could be true for physiotherapists, lab technicians, pharmacists, etc. That’s how community healthcare works.

This helps relieve the pressure on our ailing universal healthcare system by:

  • Freeing up family doctors from administrative work and business management so they can care for more patients, and spend more time with the patients that need it. 
  • Including nurse practitioners so that more British Columbians get access to primary care.
  • Providing more comprehensive and timely access to primary care (ie: family doctors and nurse practitioners), so that ailments are caught sooner or prevented altogether. This means that other specialists, like surgeons, don’t have such high or complex caseloads. In other words, it helps to free up the broader healthcare system.

This is not pie-in-the-sky thinking. It already exists in places across the province, like at Whistler 360 Health, REACH Health Centre in Vancouver and Healthcare on Yates in Victoria (a primary care centre entirely led by nurse practitioners). What we are missing is a government that has the vision and relentless pursuit to make it the norm for every single British Columbian.

Back in October, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced a new funding formula for family doctors. It was a very good, concrete step forward in fixing some very obvious issues. But it did not fundamentally address the problems in our healthcare system. It’s going to continue to fail until we have a government that moves in earnest on community healthcare.

One more thing - I mentioned psychologists up above, because healthcare in the 21st century needs to include proper mental healthcare. It isn’t currently covered by our “universal” public healthcare system.

To access mental health support, most British Columbians have to pay for it, frequently costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month. Most British Columbians cannot afford this, and go without the care they need. It’s time to change that.

To learn more about what we’re working on for healthcare, you can visit the healthcare hub on our website.

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