B.C.'s health care system is in crisis says MLA

A matter of life and death

If you have read this column over the last few months, you know I’ve written frequently about our health care system, mostly our primary system, where a million British Columbians are without a family doctor.

This last week showed us more of the story of the entire health care system.

An open letter delivered by a group of cardiologists, respirologists, orthopaedic surgeons, radiologists and their member organizations, sounded the alarm in B.C. for those who are left waiting for care.

They revealed that, in addition to the million British Columbians without a doctor, there are another million British Columbians on wait lists to see specialists.

“Patients are getting sicker and dying on our waitlists…Urgent Primary Care Centres and emergency departments are overwhelmed and can’t provide immediate access to specialists. Increased admissions strain the already overburdened hospital system, and cost even more in both dollars and patient suffering,” states the letter.

Patients are getting sicker and are dying (while) on waitlists.

When I read that, my heart sank. This is something I have witnessed in those who are close to me and have also heard (about it) from constituents in Kelowna.

There are so many waiting for care and finally, it was quantified for us. These are not just headlines, there are real people behind the numbers—neighbours, family, friends.

We are not just patients, we are humans, deserving of so much more dignity than we are receiving in our health care system than what we are receiving.

I am using the word “system” intentionally, as this is not about the healthcare providers.

They are the heroes of this story. The nurses, doctors, care aids, janitors, lab techs, x-ray technicians, therapists – they keep going to work understaffed, feeling unsupported, and terribly under-resourced.

Just two short days later, another article came out about cancer care in B.C.

People are waiting longer in B.C. to see an oncologist and receive treatment than any other province. The longer someone waits for cancer treatment, the worse their potential outcomes.

The B.C. Cancer insider referenced the highest levels of burnout and stress of any other area of medicine.

Frontline doctors are suffering along with their patients. The specialists spoke of “exhaustion”, being “demoralized” and it being “soul-destroying”.

These are the empaths of our society, those who wish to help us heal, those who have chosen a life surrounded by need. They went into medicine to heal, not to watch people get sicker and die.

This lack of resources and support are causing doctors to quit, and further exacerbating the situation. Sadly, the B.C. Government has been almost silent on these issues.

The letter from the specialists notes they asked for a meeting in June but have yet to hear from the health minister. This letter asks again for a meeting, as the situation is only more dire now.

British Columbia is beautiful. It is an amazing place to live but our healthcare system is last on too many lists right now and being last is now truly a matter of life and death.

My question to you this week is:

How are you experiencing the healthcare system right now, and what would you do to change it?

I love hearing from you. Email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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