With my part of the 60 minutes that was available to the BC Green Caucus for Budget Estimates in Health, I had a limited opportunity to canvass important topics.
In this session, I asked Minister Adrian Dix about the work being done to implement the recommendations of the In Plain Sight report on racism in the healthcare system and financial support for the new emergency room at the Lady Minto Hospital on Salt Spring Island.
I’d like to first, very briefly, just acknowledge the Herculean task that has been put in front of the Minister of Health over the last number of months with respect to the concurrent health crises that we’ve faced. I just want to acknowledge and recognize that and recognize the skill and the work that he’s done and how the minister has navigated these very difficult times. It’s been a very challenging task, and I just want to raise my hands up to you, Minister. Thank you.
I’d like to start with a question around In Plain Sight, the report that was commissioned or the investigation that was commissioned. There are many, many questions. We’ve got very limited time, so I’m going to be moving through three or four questions here quickly before turning it over to my colleague.
But I’d just like to ask the minister. I recognize that there’s a considerable amount of work being done in the ministry and that there are Indigenous leaders that have been put in place to help navigate that within the ministry. I’m just wondering if — in recognition of the fact that dealing with and addressing systemic racism doesn’t fall only on the shoulders of the staff within the Ministry of Health — Indigenous leaders are in place to deal with this.
From the minister’s perspective, how can he and we as MLAs and, indeed, all of public service assist those Indigenous leaders that have been put in place to ensure the outcomes that we are all hoping for from the In Plain Sight report are fully realized.
Hon. A. Dix:
I appreciate the comments of the hon. member. I want to express my appreciation to the leader of the Green Party and the hon. member. Members of the public may not know that the hon. member, in his community, has played a significant role. He will know the person who’s been put in charge of the In Plain Sight recommendations, associate deputy minister Dawn Thomas, who is also essentially on leave from her position as vice-president in the Vancouver Island health Authority. The work that they did together in the Saanich community is work that’s seen, and is seeing these days, a significant advancement. That’s because of the commitment, of course, of First Nations in this region. But I also want to specifically appreciate the work that the member has done.
What I might do is just in general say how we’re responding to the report, because this is ongoing. I think we use the term “emergency” quite a bit these days in reference to the overdose crisis, of course — public health emergency and the COVID-19 public health emergency.
But the reason we did In Plain Sight in the middle of a pandemic was because it was needed. I think it’s a blueprint, a road map to make progress. I don’t think that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond or anyone else thinks that it fully answers every question. But in a short period of time — the assignment in late June — a report that was comprehensive and thoughtful was tabled November 30. That is some of the most outstanding report work that we’ve ever seen, given the subject matter and the quality of the report.
So it’s my task, in part, as Minister of Health to play my role in it. I want to say that I invite the member to take part, and there will be many occasions to do so.
On the day the report was tabled, of course, we appointed Dawn Thomas, as I noted, as per recommendation 13 of the report. She’s created a team of experts around her in implementing all 24 recommendations. The In Plain Sight task team is now up and running. It involves and includes Indigenous regional representations, co-chaired by Métis, First Nations and government representatives.
Of course, many partners wanted to be part of the task team. Ordinarily, I say: “Well, we want a few people.” But in fact, in this case, we needed it to be broad, and it is.
Working with the health standards association, we’re developing a new accreditation standard. We’re looking at Indigenous representation on the complaint process. Each health authority is putting in place its own plans. Some are quite well-advanced, helped and directed by the fact that each health authority now has two Indigenous representatives nominated to it.
What I would propose to the hon. member is that, because I think he can play a very important role on Vancouver Island as we work through our Island plan, we get together soon with Dawn Thomas, with my deputy minister Steve Brown, and the member, I’d be happy to do that to see how he can work into that process. It’s very important to me that I provide of course, direction and assistance and support and resources to that program, including the $45 million of new money we’re investing in cultural safety and humility, over the next three years.
It’s also important that it not be my plan, because it’s not my plan. It’s our effort. I invite the Hon. member to be part of that. I encourage him to come with us to see what role he’d like to play in all of that.
I’ll cede the floor. My colleague’s got a question. I’d just like to say, the key point that I’d like to raise is that this doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of the Indigenous leaders that you’ve put in this place, that every member of the public service and every member that represents the 87 seats of our governance and institution here plays a role. I’m definitely going to walk hand-in-hand with the minister on this, upon invitation. The invitation goes out to the other 85 MLAs that represent the ridings as well. As well, the entire public service needs to make that work lighter for the Indigenous leaders that have been put in place. They’ve been given a very tough challenge.
I’ll cede the floor and take the floor back when given the opportunity.
A. Olsen: Just a question about the Lady Minto Hospital emergency room extension project that is currently underway. I’ve written the minister on this. I believe the ministry is aware of my advocacy on this. Just very quickly, Lady Minto Hospital also serves as the de facto walk-in medical clinic for my constituents on Saltspring Island. In fact, Saltspring Island is the largest community without a walk-in medical clinic. There are 11,000 full-time residents. The population of Saltspring has quintupled since the current Lady Minto Hospital opened in 1958.
While Island Health acknowledges that there is need for improvements, they’ve entered into a memorandum of understanding with the hospital foundation to design and build a new emergency department. The foundation is responsible for 100 percent of the capital costs, and Island Health has agreed to 100 percent of the operating costs.
I think this will be an example of a community who is being overlooked by the Ministry of Health. I note the minister has made a lot of announcements for capital investments. I think that it’s been framed, unfortunately, that the community is all too happy to fundraise for this hospital expansion project, this emergency room expansion project, although I think that that’s the wrong frame. The reality is that this community is being forced to fundraise entirely for the capital costs of this project, unlike many communities across the province represented by members from all across the legislative chamber.
I’m just wondering if the minister and the ministry could contribute to the capital infrastructure improvements that are so greatly needed on Saltspring, not only for the emergency room but, as well, for the inevitability of a walk-in who might not be going to an emergency room in another community. But because Saltspring don’t have that walk-in clinic or an urgent primary care centre, this hospital ends up being that service as well.
Noting the hour, Minister.
Hon. A. Dix:
I clearly need to answer more quickly. There’s no disagreement in this room. There are lots of ayes in that response.
The Lady Minto Hospital expansion project has been approved and is proceeding. It is fantastic news. The member isn’t quite right. The foundation is contributing a portion. The capital regional hospital district is providing the balance of capital funding. We’re grateful to both. It’s exciting to see it go ahead.
Obviously, we’re supporting operating funding, which is, over time, the most significant part of the funding that Island Health is…. But this is just fantastic news. I would like to, at length, describe both the deficiencies of the current ED, the emergency department, and all the things that are happening. I just want to thank the people of Saltspring Island for having been part of this. It’s going to improve care on Saltspring Island. It makes it easier, as we’ve said in the case of Cowichan, to recruit people.
It’s going to make care better. I just couldn’t be more excited to say it’s been approved and it’s proceeding.
And to say to the member, if I could — because this is the last answer, I think, in this morning session; I’ve been given the note saying that I have to move the motion and everything else — that I think there is something that he and I need to do together, because his constituency, three-quarters of his constituency, leads British Columbia in vaccinations.
He will know that the community health service area involving the other islands is at 88 percent. Sidney is at 87 percent. North Saanich is at 86 percent. Saltspring Island is not doing badly, but it’s at the provincial average. What I would ask him to do is to continue to push immunization on Saltspring Island with us, because I think Saltspring Island can’t be left behind. The rest of his constituency is leading B.C. That average is not good enough for Saltspring Island, and we need to raise immunization levels there.
I look forward to working together with him to see that that happens. A little internal Saanich North and the Islands competition, perhaps we can have, to see those immunization rates come up. It’s great news for everyone.
I thank him for his support of the Lady Minto project, which is going to make health care better on Saltspring Island. I just can’t be more excited to speak about that project. I wish I had more time.
I move that the committee rise and report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 11:48 a.m.