By PETER MILOBAR
MLA, Kamloops-North Thompson
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT CANADIANS, and therefore British Columbians, pride themselves most on is universal health care. We all expect timely access to quality primary health care — but thanks to John Horgan and the NDP’s inaction, this is not the case for nearly 20 per cent of British Columbians who do not have a family doctor.
We are facing a healthcare crisis in this province and the NDP government isn’t doing anything about it. If you ask Health Minister Adrian Dix what he is doing to ensure you have a family doctor, his response would likely point to the opening of Urgent and Primary Care Centres (UPCCs).
What he fails to mention, however, is that this is only a Band-aid fix. Just like all our other healthcare facilities, UPCCs are understaffed and experiencing massive wait times.
In Kamloops, the opening of a UPCC has contributed to the closure of our walk-in clinics. But I suspect if they had remained open, patients would be waiting an agonizing amount of time to be seen, as is the case across B.C.
At 58 minutes, walk-in clinics in British Columbia have the longest average wait times in the country — nearly double the national average of 25 minutes. Those who can’t get an appointment are often forced to delay a visit to the doctor until the situation becomes so severe, they have to attend one of B.C.’s overwhelmed emergency rooms.
It is not only our family doctors who are stretched thin. Nurses are also completely burnt out and this is evident at Royal Inland Hospital, where reports last year indicated that approximately two-thirds of emergency room nurses left their jobs.
This is not just about the COVID-19 pandemic. In the two years prior to the pandemic, the hospital had been at more than 120 per cent capacity.
This level of burnout isn’t isolated to nurses in Kamloops. The Official Opposition is hearing from many nurses — anonymously, because they fear retribution — who describe unmanageable working conditions in other communities as well.
They say they are losing sleep and finding themselves in tears before and after their shifts, fearing for the well-being of patients as well as their own futures in the field. No wonder many of them are making the difficult decision to walk away.
This is placing a strain on patients needing more complex care, such as surgeries. According to Dr. Cassandra Lane Dielwart from the B.C. Orthopaedic Association, the shortage of staff such as nurses means doctors have limited operating-room days and therefore cannot book patients for surgeries.
In Kamloops, about 1,500 orthopedic patients are still on the wait list. Cancer patients are also facing a lack of support as John Horgan continues to fail to deliver on his promise for a local cancer centre in Kamloops.
Instead, patients are being sent to Kelowna for cancer care, creating unnecessary stress for patients and their families who are supposed to be focused on healing.
What British Columbians truly need is longitudinal care — that is, consistent access to the same physician who knows your medical history and supports you on a long-term basis.
While our healthcare system is crumbling, John Horgan and the NDP continue to deflect blame and delay action. Every British Columbian deserves universal health care and that includes timely access to family doctors and acute care.
Peter Milobar was elected MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson in May 2017, and re-elected in October 2020. He is the Official Opposition Critic for Finance. He previously served as critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and the Official Opposition House Leader.