Editorial: An acute care overload

The lengthy and at times delayed review of Fraser Health Authority has come up with some worthwhile objectives. However, given that the minister of health believes Fraser Health’s budget is adequate, don’t expect a lot of improvements in health care any time soon.

The review’s main conclusion is that acute care hospitals are utilized more than they need to be by residents. Thus costs keep rising, given that acute care is far and away the most expensive type of care offered.

Why do people go to acute care so often? In some cases, it’s because they don’t have a family doctor. Population growth and a limited number of general practitioners mean that at least one-third of the population do not have anyone in the health system who sees them regularly, knows them by name and has a good handle on their medical issues.

Some have chronic conditions for which there is no option aside from acute care. The review noted the value of setting up clinics that specialize in treating people with certain conditions, or are part of certain groups. Unfortunately only nine per cent off the FHA budget goes towards community care, with 57 per cent going to acute care.

Some people in acute care are awaiting admission into long-term care. While many new facilities have been built in the region, most are for-profit, within the private sector. These are unaffordable for some seniors. The number of beds subsidized by the province is limited in the FHA area, and so hospitals are unnecessarily  plugged.

There are also limited mental health services available, despite the fact that 17 per cent of the adult population and 14 per cent of the youth and child population in FHA struggles with mental illness.

NDP critic Judy Darcy points out that FHA gets 28 per cent of the overall spending on health in B.C., yet is home to 36 per cent of the population. While that can be partially explained by the fact that specialist hospitals such as B.C. Children’s are in Vancouver, and by the fact that the FHA population is (on average) somewhat younger than other B.C. regions, it also illustrates the fact that this area has been chronically underfunded in health services for a long, long time.

Two examples in Langley will suffice. With a month’s notice, FHA recently cancelled a bathing program for seniors which allowed those unable to bath themselves to get this service — which they partially paid for. It is almost certain that the cancellation of this program will lead to more hospital admissions.

Another example is Langley Memorial Hospital. A recently-opened maternity centre was largely paid for by private donors. There are no long-term plans to expand the hospital, yet Langley Township plans to double its population in the next 25 years.

There will be significant health care problems in this region for many years to come.

– Langley Times

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