Premier hopeful talks health care

By Lyonel Doherty, Times Chronicle

B.C. Premier hopeful David Eby made a pit stop in Osoyoos last week to talk about solutions for health care and housing.

The Vancouver Point-Grey MLA joined his colleague Roly Russell at Jo Jo’s Café where he met a small group of supporters to discuss the province’s ills and potential fixes.

Eby has thrown his hat into the NDP leadership race, stating his intention to run for the Premier’s seat after John Horgan announced he was not seeking re-election due to his health. 

The MLA, whose wife is a doctor, addressed the health care crisis, acknowledging the fact that many people cannot secure a family doctor today.

Eby said the province is growing very quickly, noting they added 100,000 people to B.C. last year. While that is good news, that comes with challenges, he stated, pointing to health care and housing.

“We have to make sure that we respond to this growth aggressively, that we ensure that people are able to access the basic services that they expect.”

Eby said if the government fails to do this there will be serious economic consequences.

The MLA said COVID has really challenged the health care system, with work vacancies putting a huge strain on the system, leading to added stress and burnout.

“The only response, really, is that we need to get more people into our health care system.”

Eby said there are internationally trained professionals (doctors, nurses, and care aides) who live here but whose credentials are not recognized in B.C. 

He noted that’s where the government needs to work more aggressively in changing that scenario. He pointed out they recently did credential recognition reform for nurses. 

Eby added there is a commitment from government to establish a new medical school through Simon Fraser University. This would exclusively close the gap for internationally trained professionals to get them up to speed in B.C.

Eby said the third approach is how we pay family doctors. He noted it pays more to work in drop-in clinics and virtual care settings.

“Not only does it pay more, you don ‘t have people calling you after hours, which is something that happens in our house.”

He also said you don’t have to run a business or pay overhead.

Eby stated that part of the solution is paying family doctors for what we want them to do. You get paid based on having a relationship with a patient, and for certain patients who are more challenging, you get paid more, he said.

The MLA noted that physicians don’t have to lease space downtown but instead work in a government-provided facility with a team.

Osoyoos town councillor Jim King said everyone is lobbying for doctors so there is no sense in doing more lobbying. 

“But this town definitely needs some type of clinic.”

Lee McFadyen, president of the Osoyoos Desert Society, said the government must address the public perception surrounding foreign trained physicians. 

“In my little community of Keremeos we had several offshore doctors who have been very good doctors, but there is a certain segment of the community that really doesn’t want to go to them because their training is somewhere else.”

Eby said it’s clear to him that if we want our health care system to survive, we must bring more people into the province.

Donna Ashcroft from the Penticton Access Centre Society advocated for more social workers in primary care to give doctors more time to do their jobs. 

Eby was asked if he would privatize the health care system. The MLA said he wouldn’t. But he expressed concern about the structure of virtual (online) visits leading to “stealth” privatization.

“I don’t think there’s a place for private companies to make profits from our health care system. We know what it looks like in the United States; it’s not a good model.”

Eby said there is a link to housing in that a lot of health care workers may want to work here but can’t find accommodation, which is costing communities a great deal.

The MLA said it’s up to government to step up for these professionals like they do for the poorest of the poor. He noted that Singapore has successfully done this by building housing for workers.

Eby said there are more people falling out of the bottom of the market, leading to homelessness.

Councillor King said Oliver and Osoyoos put up money for physician housing but still couldn’t get any doctors.

“When I make a (medical) appointment at 10 o’clock in the morning, I get in about three in the afternoon.”

Another man in the group said you can spend nearly a whole day in the hospital waiting for treatment. 

The third topic of discussion was mental health and addiction problems. 

Eby said the government needs to do a better job on treatment by giving people an opportunity to get out of addiction.

“To have someone overdose twice, being in the emergency room two times, and then release them back out to the street to overdose again and have a brain injury or to die in the street is not respectful of people’s human rights and is not respectful of their dignity.”

Therefore, the MLA suggested involuntary treatment and care options for people who are not able to get out of that vicious cycle.


Roly Russell appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development
Healthcare petition details concerns over lack of services in Osoyoos and Oliver

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