A North Okanagan politician wants to shed some light on how health care decisions are made.
Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director, is urging local governments to lobby the Ministry of Health to name elected officials to the Interior Health Authority board.
“That could help the organization be more responsive and transparent,” said Macnabb, adding that residents may find elected politicians more approachable when they have health care concerns.
“Our role is to represent people and there’s a disconnect between IHA and the real world.”
Presently, IHA board members, including Vernon’s Virginia Goodings, are appointed by the Ministry of Health.
Macnabb points to IHA’s $3.8 billion annual operating budget and he says residents and local governments have no input on what occurs in their community.
“We have no impact on that and we’re just told what happens. Maybe we can affect some changes,” he said.
Macnabb has received the backing of his Electoral Area Advisory Committee colleagues.
“There is a lot of money being spent,” said Jackie Pearase, rural Enderby director.
“This is tax dollars being spent and with more oversight, we can answer people’s questions. Local politicians can be the conduit to the (IHA) board for residents to ask questions.”
The Regional District of North Okanagan board will be asked to support Macnabb’s proposal and to seek endorsement from the Southern Interior Local Government Association, which could lobby the ministry.
Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, isn’t opposed to possibly broadening the makeup of the IHA board but he defends how the agency operates.
“They are very transparent. Local government officials can go to a hospital board meeting,” he said, adding that IHA must consider the broad needs of the entire Interior and not just specific communities.
Foster also says that local politicians currently play a role in health care through hospital districts, which tax for facility upgrades.
“On the capital side, they have veto power. They can say no they won’t fund something.”
Norm Embree, IHA chairperson, believes expanding the board to include elected officials could be challenging.
We have nine people on the board and to get all of the local governments involved, we would have a board of about 100. I don’t think it would be practical,” he said.
Embree also says that IHA goes to great strides to communicate, including through press releases and meeting with councils and regional districts.
“Everything is on our website. We’re pretty open.”