Voices could be heard and shades of purple could be seen across the lawn of the B.C. legislature building as supporters rallied for eating disorder awareness week.
Led by the Vancouver Island Voices for Eating Disorders (VIVED), supporters concluded Eating Disorder Awareness Week on Feb. 7 by protesting the Telus Health virtual care that provides support for individuals with eating disorders.
Telus partnered with Island Health to create the service through an app that provides virtual and in-person counselling and support services for people with eating disorders. The publicly funded app has access to physicians and trauma-informed harm reduction support.
Telus was selected to develop the app through a request for proposal and the contract is for $292,500 to support up to 35 clients between Nov. 1, 2023 and Oct. 31, 2024 according to Island Health.
Island Health provides referrals.
VIVED member Chelsea Kelly is worried individuals with eating disorders might not get the support they need.
“We’re concerned that services are already inaccessible to many folks who need eating disorder services the most,” Kelly said. “While it is at this point free of charge, it worries us the direction of privatization for a service that should be provided publicly to all people who require it.”
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands who attended the rally shares similar concerns.
“We’ve been referring to it as increasing corporatization in our health care system and this government continues to lean more towards corporations to deliver health care services and at the same time talking about a universal healthcare system. There is this blending that’s happening now, it’s very concerning, especially considering privacy issues.”
Island Health is open to input on the service, the agency said in a response statement to Black Press Media.
“We recognize the importance of eating disorder services and the unique needs some eating disorder clients have. We have a partner advisory table for eating disorder programs so we can hear feedback directly from stakeholders, including VIVED,” the statement reads.
Island Health added it has received $400,000 over three years to create and enhance community eating disorder services. Work is underway to enhance services for the central Island and Cowichan Valley regions as well as support and coordinate existing community-based programs.
The health authority also notes it has created a regionalized programs and added dedicated part-time clinician and dietitian positions in the mid and north Island regions, hired a new regional coordinator, and added a part-time nurse and increased clinician time on the north Island.