Rural healthcare in dire need of support from B.C. government

July 19, 2022

VICTORIA B.C. – The B.C. Green Party is calling on the B.C. NDP to radically improve support for healthcare in rural B.C., which is facing unique challenges regarding access to a beleaguered and out-dated system. B.C. Green leader Sonia Furstenau and MLA Adam Olsen (Saanich North and the Islands) made the comments at a press conference in Victoria, following the West Kootenays leg of the party’s provincial healthcare tour. Olsen spent four days in Creston, Nelson and the surrounding communities meeting with healthcare professionals on a variety of topics.

“My tour in Nelson has shown me that rural communities in BC are experiencing unique challenges in recruiting healthcare professionals and burnout,” Olsen said. “Nearly every clinic in the Kootenays is currently looking for doctors. The majority of nurses in Kootenay Lake Hospital have turned over in the last two years. When doctors go on holidays, they are covering for other doctors in the province as locums. New medical graduates choose other options when they see the unsustainable workload of healthcare professionals and lack of affordable housing in the area.”

“There are positive steps being taken by local communities. For example, Nelson hired its own physician recruiter, who knows the area and can guide conversations with personal experience and knowledge. The B.C. government needs to support local efforts like this one.”

The B.C. Greens are calling on the B.C. NDP to support a dire situation in rural British Columbia:

  • Directly provide community health infrastructure, including office space and administrative support so that doctors can build their teams and provide patient care.

  • Modernize the fee-for-service model to provide options for doctors based on their unique contexts and needs such as salaries and adjustable fees-for-service that reflect the varying levels of complexity of patient care.

  • Support local communities’ efforts to recruit physicians - local communities are best equipped to represent their regions and answer prospective doctors’ questions

  • Create a locum strategy so that doctors can take holidays and patients have reliable access to healthcare when their family physicians are away

  • Invest in supports for reproductive healthcare, including making complex procedures available outside of major urban centres

“What we are finding as we tour the province, is that the B.C. government is not working with local communities to build flexible solutions to healthcare,” Furstenau said. “We should be rapidly moving to community-based healthcare, where administrative support is taken care of, doctors can collaborate, and patients can easily access services. Instead, the government is doubling down on UPCCs, which suffer from bureaucratic overreach, chronic staff shortages, inexcusable wait times, and long-term closures. Even when well run, UPCCs are not a substitute for family practices and longitudinal care. 

“We have heard from doctors who are diagnosing advanced diseases in patients who could not access a family doctor sooner. In many cases, this means patients will lose their lives to diseases such as cancer, when earlier detection could have resulted in curative, rather than palliative, treatment.

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