Letters to the Editor: December 7

We are on the right — healthcare for all citizens, especially seniors, is constantly improving

Commitment to health care

On December 3rd, I met for an hour with the new CEO of the Interior Health Authority, Chris Mazurkewich. Mr. Mazurkewich was in a senior role with the IHA when I was first elected 15 years ago. Back then, the East Kootenay had no regional hospital. We did not have full complements of specialists as we do today and so if you were very sick or very injured, you were at risk from an inadequate system. We did not have all our new specialists, our new Emergency ward, our new Diagnostics Centre or our new Ambulatory Care Centre. And of course we did not have the new ICU that is approaching completion.

In those days, Macleans Magazine did a front page story illustrating how bad rural health care was in Canada and the Cranbrook hospital was featured in the article, not in a nice way. Today in the East Kootenay, we have one of the best rural healthcare systems in the world.

In terms of family doctors, the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s recent physician report showed that in 2014, B.C. added 320 more physicians — for a total of 10,692.  More physicians are coming to rural B.C. — with a 6.6% increase in the number of rural family physicians in the province. B.C. has the best rate of population per full-time GP in the country, at 125 per 100,000.  We continue to work hard on this issue because there are still not enough family doctors.

We are training more new doctors. The NDP did not add a single new medical school space. There were 120 first-year medical training spaces in 1991 — and 120 in 2001 when I was first elected. Today we have 288. In 2014/15, there were 2,441 doctors practicing in rural areas in B.C. compared to 2,260 in 2010/11 — an increase of about 8%, compared to population growth of just 2.1%.

Back in 2001, we also did not have relatively new seniors care homes in all East Kootenay communities of 3,000 or more population, as we do today.Seniors benefit the most from an improved acute care system but home & community care is also critically important. In 2013/14, health authorities delivered 8.45 million hours of home support, 21% more than just 4 years earlier. But we need more to keep patients at home longer.

In comparison with the rest of Canada, BC leads in Canada with some of the best health outcomes in the world – with some of the lowest per capita spending. Rated #1 in Canada according to the OECD in June 2014. Only province to receive ‘A’ grade overall from Conference Board of Canada in May 2013.

This is not to suggest that the healthcare system is perfect. It is not and it never will be. But we are on the right track and with continued commitment to innovation and continued increased funding, healthcare for all citizens, especially seniors, is constantly improving. My personal goals are to get our own MRI at the EKRH, to ensure that we maintain surgery at the Fernie Hospital and to improve home & community care options across the region, especially for seniors.

Bill Bennett

MLA, Kootenay East

Cranbrook Daily Townsman

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