B.C.’s ‘new normal’ in health care is not acceptable – MLA Minute

Last week, B.C.’s health minister, Adrian Dix, alluded to the “new normal” in B.C. healthcare—packed emergency rooms, wait times spanning more than eight hours, a lack of primary care doctors, closed emergency rooms, reduced operating rooms and years on wait lists for surgeries.

Should we, as citizens, accept this as our new reality?

Imagine a mother in labour, directed away from her local hospital to a distant centre for maternity care, or a cancer patient, sent stateside because there’s no immediate availability of treatments here. These are not hypotheticals. They are the hard truths our neighbours in Kelowna and across the province are experiencing daily.

This isn’t just about the inconvenience of waiting. The situation affects the core of our health. Timely surgeries, which are crucial in many cases, are being postponed due to operating rooms closing. Surgeons, who have trained for years to serve the community, find themselves unable to perform life-changing and life-saving surgeries. This is a travesty, not just for the doctors but for the countless patients who pin their hopes on these medical professionals.

The healthcare worker situation is equally dire. With a conspicuous lack of nursing staff, the burden on existing staff multiplies.

What are the repercussions of this so-called “new normal”? Burnout, reduced quality of care, and heightened risks to patient safety. As of now, staff are at the brink, their dedication pushed to its limits.

The situation is so bad, doctors are the ones sounding the alarm bell. Surgeons are writing letters, doctors are rallying in front of Surrey City Hall and the consensus is clear—the system, as it stands, is broken.

One pivotal question arises: If our healthcare model is so robust, why doesn’t any other country emulate our system of care? The silence in response is telling. Which means, our system is not as good as we think it is. For the sake of Kelowna and all of BC, dramatic change is imperative.

Residents of the Okanagan and all of BC, deserve a health system that caters to their needs promptly and efficiently.

So, what can be done?

• Healthcare worker recruitment and retention—More training spaces, faster accreditation for foreign-trained workers, and a better work culture. Competitive compensation, appealing benefits, and an encouraging work environment can assure longevity and commitment.

• Funding overhaul—Instead of institutions receiving bulk funding, the dollars should follow the patient. This ensures that resources are distributed based on institutional efficiency and performance, leading to more personalized patient-centric care.

Guaranteed wait times—No patient should be left in the lurch. Instituting a guaranteed maximum wait time means outcomes will improve.

• Primary care physicians for all—Every resident deserves a primary care physician. Expanding the network ensures early diagnosis and interventions, reducing the strain on emergency services.

• More training spaces for doctors and nurses—Expanding medical training facilities ensures a consistent supply of qualified professionals. This can fill existing voids and anticipate future demands.

• Physician assistants—Introducing physician assistants can significantly augment the capacity of our healthcare system. By handling routine diagnoses and minor procedures, they can complement the roles of primary physicians and specialists.

• Increase in operating room capacity—The current state of surgeries in B.C. is far from optimal. By boosting the number and capability of operating rooms, we can ensure that patients receive timely surgical interventions.

The “new normal” pitched by the health minister is not one we should accept. It’s a wake-up call, signalling the urgent need for change. We’ve been presented with a choice, continue down this challenging path or to pave a new way forward.

For the sake of our families, neighbours, and the generations to come, we need changes. Our very lives depend on it.

My question to you this week is this:

What do you think should be changed about our healthcare system?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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