Why does health minister fail to meet agreed nurse-patient ratios? Why is he privatizing healthcare?

Feb 29, 2024 | 42-5, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 4 comments

The healthcare system is failing British Columbians. Yet, the finance minister continues to hand the health minister billions of dollars in an expanded budget.

Last year, the health minister Hon. Adrian Dix signed an agreement with BC Nurses to ensure there was a safe patient-nurse ratio. He still has not delivered on his promise. And, under the minister the use of privatized agency nurses has increased by 400% over the last four years.

The health minister is responsible for a $36 billion dollar budget, increased from $18 billion dollars since Minister Dix took control of the ministry. There is an absurd lack of accountability in this ministry!

[Transcript]

RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF NURSES AND USE OF PRIVATE AGENCIES

A. Olsen: Under this Minister of Health, spending has increased from $18 billion when he took the office to $36 billion now. A year ago the minister agreed to adopt minimum nurse-patient ratios. The minister told nurses that help was on the way. However, the experience of British Columbians trying to access health care, and Stats Canada, paint a different picture than the version of exceptionalism that we hear in here, day in and day out.

According to Stats Canada, there are nearly 5,500 vacant job postings for nurses across the province. B.C. nurses are here today. They want less announcements from the minister and more supports — more supports to retain nurses, including a provincially coordinated plan to address the systemic workplace health and safety concerns that have been raised over and over and over again.

The minister’s $36 billion health care system is in crisis. What is his plan to retain nurses, and will he deliver a provincial plan to address the health and safety concerns he has known about and failed to solve?

Hon. A. Dix: We’re doing just that. We’re working specifically with nurses in British Columbia on the issue of nurse ratios, a historic commitment that we’re putting into place. In the last number of years, we’ve led Canada in new registered nurses, including last year. The increase in the 12 months of 2023 was more than 6,000. That has involved the increases we’ve made in nursing spaces, the improved pathways to internationally educated nurses and the dramatic increase in the number of spaces for nurse practitioners, more than double they were when I became Minister of Health.

Finally, I would say, with respect to the issue of health and safety, one of the key proposals by the B.C. Nurses Union, by the Hospital Employees Union, by the Health Sciences Association and by the Doctors of B.C. was to change the system of security in acute care. We said we’d do it. We said we’d hire 320 people in a year. We’ve put in place a new relational security model, and we have delivered on behalf of nurses and others in B.C.

The Speaker: House Leader Third Party, supplemental.

A. Olsen: What’s doubled is this health care minister’s budget, and yet our health care system is still in deep, deep crisis. You know who is doing well under this minister? That’s private health care corporations. They’re doing really well under this minister.

One of the ways he has tried to address the shortage of nurses is through the expansion of agency nurses. The Premier wondered out loud recently: “How, adding profit margin to the limited number of health care workers, we have somehow improved services for people” It’s a question that the Premier asked, and it’s a good question from the Premier. I’m wondering if he asked the Minister of Health right before jacking up his budget again this year.

[10:55 a.m.]

This Minister of Health is relying on agency nurses, adding cost to the system and profit for corporations. Dispirited nurses, exhausted by the lack of support by this $36 billion minister, leave the public service to join the for-profit health care system. The result is a 400 percent increase in spending for agency nurses over the past four years.

To the $36 billion minister, we’re seeing creeping privatisation of health care under his watch. It appears to be his strategy. He’s doing it with public money. When is he going to come clean and just admit that that’s what he’s doing?

Hon. A. Dix: The facts are the opposite. We have the largest capital building program in the history of the B.C. health care system, every one of those projects health authority–owned and operated.

With respect to nursing, we’ve increased 602 nursing spaces in British Columbia’s colleges and universities. We’ve improved pathways for internationally educated nurses. We’re leading Canada in new nurses while other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, have lost nurses in the same period. The fact of the matter is that we are working with nurses, as we work with doctors, to ensure that working conditions for nurses improve, that nurse ratios are put in place in British Columbia and that we’re adding nurses to our system. The facts say that.

The member can be opposed…. The member is suggesting he’s opposed to more money to pay for health care when we have 650,000 people across British Columbia….

Interjections.

The Speaker: Members.

Hon. A. Dix: That’s what he’s saying. I disagree with him.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Members, shhh. Shhh, Members. Members.

Hon. A. Dix: Well, talk about results — leading Canada in new nurses, putting them in place….

Interjections.

Hon. A. Dix: Hon. Speaker, we had around 300 nurse practitioners in B.C. when I became Minister of Health; we now have more than 1,000. That’s important. That’s a change. That’s an increase.

We led Canada in new registered nurses. It hasn’t always been the case — there’s one Health Minister who lost registered nurses — in the history of B.C. health care. That was the Leader of the Opposition.

We are leading Canada in new registered nurses, and we’re going to continue to recruit, retain and make life better for nurses in British Columbia.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Members.

4 Comments

  1. Michael Goldman

    I unfortunately spent eleven days in hospital last November and all but one of the registered nurses who took care of me were “traveling nurses”. I had one local nurse, one from Ontario, one from Alberta, and one from Texas. They told me that they were provided accommodation, and could move on to another hospital whenever they chose. One moved on to another hospital while I was hospitalized. They did provide good care, especially the Ontario nurse, but it was obvious that they were working flat out throughout their shifts and on occasion nurses were brought in from ICU when that department wasn’t full. It seemed to be a very makeshift way to provide adequate care.

    Reply
  2. Betty Cadre

    I find it disgusting that Health Care in this Province is allowing so many Private Clinics and Health Care dollars, from the Public System to go to the for-Profit System! The Health Care System has been lacking in so many areas for years and it is about time a complete audit is done, to see where the funds go and who to! There is absolutely no Home /care Program in this Province that functions for everyone? Most is for -Profit, and unaffordable for most!

    Reply
  3. Claire Theresa Heffernan

    I was in hospital in January recovering from surgery and all went well but I am concerned (as a retired health care worker who collected my pension) that these 12 hour shifts that nurses are now working will to lead to early burn out. I am certain they will never be around long enough to collect their benefits which is exactly what the health authorities want. In addition, more medical errors occur after working 8 hours. Since most shifts start at 7 am and 7 pm, I would urge anyone in hospital not to ring the call bell after 3 pm or 3 am which is the 8 hour cut off. The current work environment for nurses and all health care workers on these ridiculously long shifts is what I call MODERN SLAVERY. Needs to stop. For health and sanity, need to return to the 8 hour work day.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Medén

    I believe it ia time to subsidize qualified nurses from other countries who are now living here. I know of a nurse who worked for fifteen years as an emergency room nurse in Ukraine. Canadians went to Ukraine to take the same training she took. In Nova Scotia the qualification is accepted. In B.C. she would have to take further training, but the cost of this training is something far beyond what she can pay. If the training is required, it’s time to subsidize or at least provide a loan so this training can occur and we can have more nurses.

    Reply

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