Excerpts from Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Monday, May 2, 2022.
T. Stone: Only in NDP land would they say that presiding over an increase of 200,000 British Columbians who are no longer attached to primary care physicians — that somehow that reflects the primary care network’s actually working in this province. It’s been an abysmal failure under this Premier and under this government.
For two elections, the Premier has actually promised British Columbia that he would make health care better. Instead, the opposite is actually true. Health care has been deteriorating day by day by day. It’s worsening under this Premier.
Alison Lee is a pediatric ER physician at B.C. Children’s Hospital. She says: “The hospital is increasingly overwhelmed by patients presenting with issues that could be better treated by family physicians. It’s terrible for families who have to wait up to nine to ten hours to get their non-urgent issues addressed, and it adds to the burnout of health care workers.”
My question is this: instead of blaming others, will the Premier listen, will he take responsibility and will he take action now to improve health care for British Columbians who need it?
Hon. J. Horgan: I don’t want to draw attention to the 16 years that the B.C. Liberals had where they came up with not a solution for health care, but a bumper sticker: A GP for Me. That’s what they ran on in three successive elections, and at the end of those three successive elections, there were fewer GPs than there were when they started. If you’re going to being throwing rocks in a glass house, you should check the fortifications before you start chucking.
Mr. Speaker: Opposition House Leader, supplemental.
T. Stone: Well, 178,000 British Columbians were attached under our former government — 200,000 additional British Columbians are now without doctors under your government. What British Columbians need is they need less empty rhetoric and they actually need results, with all due respect to the Premier. The crisis in health care isn’t just taking place at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Over the weekend, Royal Inland Hospital was operating at only 50 percent of normal nursing complements, putting both patients and staff at risk. We only know that this is actually happening because nurses are coming forward anonymously. One nurse describes the situation like this: “Low morale. High stress. Toxic. Dangerously short staffed. Unsafe. I leave feeling defeated, hopeless and afraid that we missed something and that we’ll be held responsible for poor outcomes we have no control over.”
That’s one of the nurses under immense stress and pressure at Royal Inland Hospital today. As the Premier knows, Royal Inland is one of the two only tertiary referral hospitals in Interior Health, and it’s one of the largest trauma hospitals in all of British Columbia. What’s happening there is inexcusable, and it’s getting worse. When is this Premier going to fix this?
Hon. A. Dix: First, I want to both acknowledge and recognize the extraordinary work of everyone at Royal Inland Hospital and at hospitals across British Columbia who have done exceptional work over the last two years of the pandemic. I think it’s important to note the exceptional efforts that have taken place across health authorities to respond to what has been a longer than two years now and continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
In that time, we’ve added 30,000 health care workers in B.C. — 30,000. The opposition on Thursday suggested that we lost 8,000 health care workers. They’re wrong. We actually report on this every year. We do it under the Ministry of Finance, and the fact that it was the finance critic of the opposition raising those issues shows that they haven’t clearly seen that. Further, Statistics Canada shows that we’ve led across Canada in the recruitment of new health care workers.
Now, that doesn’t mean, in the midst of two public health emergencies, there are not exceptional challenges, and that we need to continue this work on behalf of the health care system in B.C. to make sure that we have the people in place to provide a high level of care.
Members all around the House understand. If they visit hospitals, they know this. If they talk to nurses, if they talk to doctors, if they talk to health science professionals, if they talk health care workers — they know the challenges, but they also know the unprecedented investment by this provincial government in supporting those health care workers……
P. Milobar: Perhaps the minister needs to dig a little more into those StatsCan figures that he keeps talking about, because StatsCan says B.C. is the only major province to lose hospital employees during the pandemic, flat out.
The minister can say the system is getting better. It’s not. These are people working in the system pleading for help from this government.
Here’s another nurse who has come forward. I can’t name this nurse, though, because of an NDP gag order. I will quote: “Morale is terrible. Staffing is awful. We feel unsupported and unappreciated. We feel abandoned. Never in my life have I felt as worthless and expendable as I do now.”
When will the Premier stop pointing fingers at everyone else and blaming other people and actually fix this crisis and, at a minimum, maybe even acknowledge a crisis exists.
Hon. A. Dix: The member opposite is the Finance critic of the opposition. We count the number of health care workers we have in B.C. since the pandemic. We count them. It’s a report that he receives every year and all members of the House receive every year.
In 2019…. I know the opposition prefers surveys to facts, but there you go.
Mr. Speaker: Members, let’s hear the answer.
Hon. A. Dix: In 2019, 186,775. In 2021, 216,020. Those are just the facts.
The member refers to StatsCan. I encourage him, actually, to read the reports. What does StatsCan say? “B.C. experienced the highest growth in health employment of any of the provinces during the pandemic.”
The member is simply wrong on the facts. He takes…. There’s actually…. This is something StatsCan did. They reclassified employees. The numbers are the same. You just have to read the whole report, and you’ll see what the facts are. You’ll see what the facts are.
With respect to what the member refers to — you know, the facts…. So 8,000, he says.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. A. Dix: It isn’t 8,000. It’s 30,000, the other way. Last, he says. We’re actually first in Canada. Up is down.
I would say this. The member refers to a gag order. I just want to read to him from the code of conduct that he’s referring to. “Interior Health employees are free to comment on public issues.” I’ll just repeat. “Interior Health employees are free to comment on public issues but must exercise caution to ensure that, by doing so, they do not jeopardize the perception of impartiality in the performance of their duties.”
That is right in the document that they referred to, that they quoted from last week.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
Hon. A. Dix: They didn’t quote the whole thing, and they didn’t quote the facts.
Source: B.C. Hansard.