Despite Minister Adrian Dix’s claims he is addressing the primary healthcare crisis in British Columbia, thousands of my constituents in Saanich North and the Islands do not have access to a family doctor.
The pace of Minister Dix’s response is creating a gap and the corporations are lining up to exploit it.
While the Minister claims he supports equitable access to universal healthcare, the corporatization is rapidly expanding on his watch. He claims there are investigations underway however we are not seeing action to address the growing problem. New businesses are being open and the gap between those who can afford to pay out of pocket for a family doctor and those who cannot continues to grow.
I doubt this is the universal healthcare envisioned by Tommy Douglas.
PRIMARY HEALTH CARE SERVICES
AND PRIVATE PROVIDERS
Thousands of my constituents in Saanich North and the Islands are desperate to get access to primary health care. Back in February, I asked the Minister of Health about a doctor’s clinic charging a so-called continuity of care fee over and above MSP billing. For the past year, we’ve asked the minister why there’s a growing corporatization of primary health care on his watch. He claims to support an equitable, universal health care system for all British Columbians. Yet the excruciatingly slow pace of his response is leaving our communities without accessible health care, and vulnerable underserved citizens are desperate.
In Sidney, a new operator has just hung a shingle. For $2,400 annually, you can get primary health care services not covered by MSP. Prior to the minister, primary health care included preventative care, screenings, diagnostics and so on. However, now people have to pay out of pocket for what they’re calling “non-medically necessary services.”
To the Minister of Health, why are the exclusive primary health care clubs like SHOAL, like Harrison, like Telus growing under his watch?
Hon. A. Dix:
In 2018, one of the early actions as Minister of Health was to strengthen the protections, by regulation, in the Medicare Protection Act. The provisions that had been passed under the previous government were never proclaimed. We’ve taken consistent action to support public health care everywhere, including the repatriation of private contracts and actions to support public care in every way. This has included, in particular, the purchase of private surgical centres and private MRI centres to reduce wait times in the public system.
With respect to people who may be in violation of the Medicare Protection Act, that is the responsibility — under the law, under the Medicare Protection Act — of the Medical Services Commission. And they consistently take action, including cases in the member’s riding, on that basis.
They are going to be taking action. They have the authority based on the act to take action, including the power of injunctions, and they take that role very seriously. The commission is, as the member will know, made up partly of representatives of the government, but also of the Doctors of B.C. I think the commission is a strong supporter of public health care and opposed to any extra billing, as am I.
Member, for a supplemental.
The minister’s response is void of actually answering the question. The reality is that while we’ve been asking these questions over the last year, the minister has stood up and continued to repeat the same rhetoric back to us. Meanwhile, in our communities, we are seeing more and more services which are differentiating between those who can afford to pay for the health care or primary health care that they’re desperately needing and those who cannot. That is the very definition of a growing two-tiered health care system in our province under this minister’s watch, yet he will not respond directly.
It’s been months since the minister has been sitting on a report investigating Telus Health’s enabling of a two-tier health care system. He has the report. Meanwhile, we have prominent NDP former staffers continuing to lobby this government on behalf of Telus Health. It seems the NDP lobbyist pipeline is not just for oil and gas companies. They’re now getting into the corporatization of our health care system as well.
Meanwhile, more and more services continue to show up in our communities across the province. A Victoria clinic is offering access to a family doctor for $110 a month. In Maclean’s, the owner said this: “The reality is that the kinds of changes that need to happen within the public system take years to implement, if they ever do. Clinics like ours and patients throughout B.C. don’t have the luxury of waiting for that to happen.”
I have operators in my communities that are pleading for the government to act quicker so that we are not being exploited by services that are charging fees. To the Minister of Health, is this his vision of equitable access to universal primary health care in B.C?
Hon. A. Dix:
We are, of course, a province of laws. We’ve strengthened the Medicare Protection Act. We have a strong Medical Services Commission which enforces those laws and takes the action where appropriate. There is no report to be sat on. The Medical Services Commission does reviews, and then it takes action. That is their authority under the law, as the member surely well knows by now.
What I would say is we are also taking action, of course, to address primary care in our province — 1,200 people added incrementally to primary care networks, 350 people working in 28 urgent and primary care centers. The addition of Indigenous primary care centers. The addition of community health centers. The addition, in fact, this year of a record number of new to practice doctors committed to full-service family practice. These are actions that we’ve taken working with the Resident Doctors and the Doctors of B.C.
Yes, we’re working closely with doctors and nurse practitioners and everyone else in B. C. to make improvements to primary care everywhere — in the member’s riding and everywhere else.