I am concerned about the growing inequality in primary health care. In Saanich North and the Islands there is a doctor’s clinic that has a membership fee.
This is a concerning situation and frankly I am surprised that this is happening under the BC NDP.
In 2017, the provincial government began a reorganization of primary care services. The focus was to create a primary care centre staffed by health care professionals working as a team to supply health care services for the people in their practice.
This allows us to create personal relationships with the people providing our primary health care.
Progress was slow. Over time the focus shifted to the Urgent and Primary Care centre model. The goal is to have these new super-clinics eventually offer primary care services. However, for the thousands of my constituents who don’t have a relationship with family doctors or a primary care team, the reality is that primary health care delivery is through a walk-in clinic, the emergency room of the local hospital or if they can afford it, they can buy a premium service.
Many residents of the Saanich Peninsula reached out to me to ask whether it was legal for their clinic to charge a membership fee. We raised this with Hon. Adrian Dix (Minister of Health) and asked whether this was allowed in our universal health care system. No change has been made.
The correspondence often noted that the membership fee was not necessarily a financial barrier but rather they disagreed with the principle. Numerous of them said that they would reluctantly pay the fee because they could ill-afford to lose the primary health care service. Not everyone can afford to pay a membership for a primary health care provider, and they should not have to if government is upholding and investing in our universal health care system.
It appears the membership fee idea is catching on. Check out what TELUS MyHealth is offering. The virtual walk-in clinic service is covered by the government if you are eligible for provincial health insurance (MSP). If not, you will have to pay $70 for the consult.
If you can afford $4700/annually you can sign up for the TELUS LifePlus program.
Like I said, this is a concerning situation that I fear is becoming a trend. I’m surprised especially under a BC NDP government who at one point in recent memory actually defended our universal health care system and even celebrated it as an NDP accomplishment. Now, it appears they are allowing it to erode under their watch.