COLUMN: MLA Adam Olsen calls for investing wisely in primary health care

Olsen is the BC Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands

MLA Adam Olsen. (BC Green Party)

It’s no secret our family doctors are stressed and stretched thin. On the Saanich Peninsula, nearly a third of us do not have a family doctor. Unfortunately, the problem goes much deeper. In the next few years many of the doctors practicing in our communities will retire. There is a crisis in primary health care.

I see the people lining the sidewalk as I drive by the local clinics on my way to my constituency office in Sidney. I have heard the seemingly countless stories from my constituents, (our family, friends and neighbours) about the many ways our provincial health care system is failing us.

The primary care problem is characterized two ways, either a doctor shortage or a doctor distribution problem. To the people standing in line the distinction matters little. Add their misery and lack of productivity to the overwhelming cost of delivering the health care system. I have spoken with hundreds of front line health care workers and they are exasperated, weary and in need of relief.

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The government is changing primary care delivery in British Columbia. They are developing primary care networks to help relieve the pressure on doctors. Promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and supportive/palliative care will be delivered by a team of professionals working collaboratively. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, dietitians and an assortment of other specialists will work as one integrated health team to provide patients a holistic health care approach. More than a dozen regions in British Columbia are already transitioning to the new model and the Saanich Peninsula is currently in the process of developing a plan to transform our care delivery.

We’ll be spending $20.8 billion on health care, which is roughly 43.4 per cent of the total budget for 2019/20. Sickness has a tremendous social cost and throwing more money at it won’t necessarily fix it. We must invest it more wisely by putting much more attention on the promotive and preventative aspects of wellness. One area we can invest is in public education and teaching people how to effectively access health care services.

I met recently with Minister of Health Adrian Dix to advocate for speedy solutions for the primary care crisis on the Saanich Peninsula. He is well versed in the challenges here and is committed to overcoming them. There are also homegrown solutions developing by Shoreline Medical Clinic (formerly Peninsula Medical) and the Saanich Peninsula Hospital and Healthcare Foundation (SPHF).

These issues will be discussed at an upcoming public health forum on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. It is a collaborative event organized by the Canadian Federation of University Women and SPHF along with the Mayors of Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney.

I hope to see you at this important event. It will be an opportunity to hear from the local doctors, ask questions and get involved.

Adam Olsen is the BC Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands

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