What is the BC NDP doing about growing corporatization threatening primary health care?

Apr 27, 2022 | 42-3, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 1 comment

Nearly 1,000,000 British Columbians do not have access to a family doctor or team of primary health care practitioners.

More are notified each day that their doctor is retiring or shutting down their practice due to exhaustion and frustration.

There is a lurking threat that the BC NDP is doing nothing about, large corporations are positioning their business interests to exploit this tragic situation and entirely disrupt the business model of primary health care away from the equitable and universal program funded by government to private healthcare driven by profit and available only to British Columbians who can afford it.

While Premier John Horgan attempts to deflect responsibility and shift attention away from his government’s failed healthcare policies, it appears things are about to get much worse before it gets better.

[Transcript]

A. Olsen:

To hear the Minister of Health suggest that we’ve come through a pandemic is actually pretty distressing. I think we’re still in a pandemic. Nearly a million British Columbians….

[2:10 p.m.]
Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Shhh. Members.

A. Olsen:

It’s a hard reality, but it is the reality.

Nearly a million British Columbians do not have a family doctor. Our health care system is on the brink, and our Premier wants to blame everyone else for their failed policies.

Interjections.

Nearly one million British Columbians do not have a family doctor. Our health care system is on the brink, and our Premier wants to blame everyone else for their failed policies. It’s about to get worse, because the NDP government is pretending that there is not this threat of large corporations who are poised to disrupt the primary health care system. They’re pretending like that doesn’t exist.

You know who’s taking action on the primary health care crisis that we’re facing? Telus. They’re taking action. They don’t want to talk about this, part of their so-called social capitalist enterprise, but they are charging $3,900 a year for their LifePlus program.

Don Copeman. He’s back, this time with Harrison Healthcare clinics, opening soon in Vancouver and in Victoria. While Telus buries their fees, Harrison’s just open about their “private health care fees,” even calling their highest-level of service the premier service: $4,900 a year to start, for the first year, $3,900 every year after that for adults; teens and young adults — $1,600; children —$675. For my family to get to become a member of this exclusive club — $10,000 a year.

The government of Canada’s website says that the Canada health transfer funds “have at times been withheld for violations of the Canada Health Act in relation to extra billing and user charges.” My question is to the Premier. We have a corporation charging British Columbian fees for access to longitudinal primary health care. How can he expect the federal government to step up and give us more cash when he’s allowing this kind of exploitation in our province?

Hon. A. Dix:

Well, we have laws, the Medicare Protection Act, in B.C., and those laws will be enforced. We on this side of the House brought into place measures that have been passed in the Legislature, in 2003, but never proclaimed.

In addition, we’ve taken specific action to ensure a whole sector of health care, which is diagnostics, has changed profoundly in B.C., such that we went from 174,000 MRIs in 2016-17 to 260,000 last year.

So whether it’s Telus….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members.

Minister will continue.

Hon. A. Dix:

Same with CT scans. I’ll tell you….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members.

Minister will continue.

Hon. A. Dix:

With respect to the Canada Health Act and the Medicare Protection Act, which is our responsibility in this Legislature, they will be enforced in British Columbia. But the areas of health care that are growing in primary care: those are primary care networks — that’s public. That’s 53 of them, including in the member’s constituency. That’s urgent and primary care centres — that’s public. That’s community health centres, which had been stuck in the mud for a generation in B.C. — new community health centres controlled by non-profit organizations in communities.

With respect to everyone, the rules and the law will apply, and those are the actions the government’s taking to ensure this generation of public health care improves life for everyone in B.C.

Mr. Speaker:

Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

In my riding, we have a clinic with 24 doctors fundraising for overhead. We have an emergency department expanding — a $10 million project, 30 percent of it contributed by local government, 70 percent of it committed by the fundraising of the hospital foundation. That’s what’s happening in my riding — a clinic with 24 doctors fundraising for overhead.

This week the Premier and the Minister of Health were pressed on their policies, their failed health care policies, and the Premier stood in this chamber and swore at a member of this House.

[2:15 p.m.]
In an interview, the Premier shifts blame for his failed policies onto the federal government, complaining about Canada health transfers — not pointing fingers while clearly pointing fingers. Then the Premier has the temerity to again shift responsibility, in a Vancouver Sun article, saying it’s not his problem; it’s a B.C. problem; it’s a Canada problem. These are just distractions, useful distractions from the issue that nearly a million British Columbians are seized with at this moment. The Premier is great at distracting.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members.

Let’s have a question, please.

A. Olsen:

The erosion of health care has been a growing issue over decades in this province, as the Minister of Health said. However, this Premier has been in that seat for five years now, and we’ve seen fewer people with a family doctor, more corporations delivering primary health care and more services being forced to fundraise to stay afloat.

My question is to the Premier. When is he going to stop shifting blame and pointing fingers for his failed policies and take responsibility for the mess that his government is making on this equitable, universal primary care health care system in our province?

Hon. A. Dix: I’m disappointed that the member seems to be suggesting in his first question that we should not be advocating for increases in the Canada health transfer. He will know that the federal government contributes currently 22 percent — 22 percent — of health care costs in Canada on what needs to be a shared-cost program.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members.

Hon. A. Dix:

He will know that increases in the Canada health transfer are absolutely necessary in this country for the long-term sustainability of public health care. The Premier is advocating for that, as he should, as the previous Premiers did, and as they should have. When the member calls that an irrelevancy, the fundamental underpinnings of the health care system in Canada, that is incorrect. That is incorrect.

With respect to Telus, we’ve answered this question in the House previously, so I suggest that the member take a look at that response. I have ensured that that issue be referred to the Medical Services Commission. That’s how we enforce the law in British Columbia. We referred it to the Medical Services Commission, the issue in question, to ensure that everyone in B.C. is acting in compliance with the law.

But what we have to do is take action. What did the members learn last night at their town hall meeting? We need to use nurse practitioners more. We doubled the number of nurse practitioners. We need more community health centres. We increased the number of community health centres. We need primary care networks to expand team-based care across the province. That’s precisely what we’ve done in his constituency, in his leader’s constituency and everywhere else in B.C.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members, when the question is being asked or being answered, members don’t have to react to every word uttered by the other side. Just listen, pay attention, and we’ll get through it.

1 Comment

  1. Dianne Petrie

    My MLA asked a question and I feel that the answer has been skirted around. With climate crisis happening, one million people without doctors in B.C. this crisis needs to be top priority. I sense this is extremely serious and needs action.

    Reply

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