People across Canada have found it increasingly difficult to access consistent primary care over the last 20 years; the Greater Victoria area is no exception. This is a major problem, one that my own family has experienced, and I understand that people are frustrated. The challenges we are seeing today are decades in the making and were worsened by funding cuts to health care made by previous governments. But regardless of the causes of our present problem, we are committed to finding solutions.
At a time when the former government should have proactively doubled down to strengthen our health system, the BC Liberal government abandoned its commitment to improve health care. Instead, it slashed funding, increased MSP premiums, and privatized our health-care services, laying off thousands of health-care workers across the province.
Our government has taken concerted action to improve primary care in B.C. and to reinvest back into health services, but the pandemic has only increased the strain. Strikingly, the federal government used to pay 50 per cent of public health care costs to the provinces through the Canada Health Transfer but now, the federal government’s share is just 22 per cent. In 2011, the federal Conservative government announced plans to reduce annual increases to the health transfer. Kevin Falcon, the current BC Liberal leader, was the only provincial finance minister anywhere in Canada to support these cuts. Those cuts have cost British Columbians billions in health-care funding and that’s why Premier Horgan is now leading a coordinated effort with other provinces to get Ottawa to pay its fair share.
This huge underfunding created a lack of cohesion in our health-care system. It meant that people were paying more and getting less. While we have massively increased health investments since forming government, we recognize that there is much more to do. We are listening closely to those on the front lines so we can implement solutions that will lead to long-term success.
As the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, I’ve been working to relay concerns from my constituents and to advocate for the health-care needs of people in our community, to the minister of health and to other responsible officials.
I have been meeting weekly with constituents, doctors, nurses, and health-care workers in our community to understand their experiences on the ground and to amplify their voices in the legislature. I have encouraged follow-up meetings as well. Recently I met with several family doctors at an event sponsored by the BC College of Family Physicians and listened to their ideas to strengthen our health-care system for all.
Our government is working to train and license more doctors to work in B.C. by expanding medical training, and adding new residency seats, including dedicated seats for international medical graduates. We are also offering more alternative payment plans for family doctors to support them to stay in family practice, rather than the current model, which we acknowledge is not working for everyone. And we are also making it easier for internationally trained nurses to work in B.C.
Many of these are transformational changes that won’t produce results overnight. That’s why we are also taking steps to increase efficiency in the system as it currently stands. One example is that we’ve doubled the number of nurse practitioners who can prescribe routine medications, in an effort to free up doctors to see more patients.
I am determined to continue to work with our government, health-care workers, and advocates in our community, so we can ensure all people can access the health care they deserve.
Murray Rankin is the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
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