“As the minister knows well and has known for a considerable period of time, waiting for hours, sometimes in minus 30 degree weather, in Fort St. John to get into a walk-in clinic is a common occurrence,” MLA Darcy said. ‘The government has also known for a very long time that Fort St. John is at the breaking point, with some of the worst shortages of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health care providers in the entire province.”
In order to illustrate her point, MLA Darcy delivered on a promise to share a story about Ryan, a gentleman she met during her Fort St. John visit who allegedly requires urgent treatment for his depression and his anxiety.
She said, like many others in this area, it is a constant struggle for Ryan to access a family doctor, and she noted, the wait can be up to eight weeks.
“Ryan needs urgent treatment for his depression and his anxiety, and he was finally referred to a psychiatrist last June,” MLA Darcy went on to say. “But because of wait times, he is being forced to wait six months more at least.”
MLA Darcy then asked Health Minister Terry Lake why rural residents like Ryan are being forced to wait unacceptable lengths of time for urgent treatment.
The minister replied by saying the NDP member knows it’s a challenge all over the western world to recruit health care professionals to rural and remote areas.
“In the case of Fort St. John, there’s no question that over the last year they have lost a number of health care professionals,” Minister Lake replied. “We are working hard with Northern Health.
Minister Terry adds, “Our MLA for Fort St. John is working with us to make sure that we put the right incentives in place.”
He then confirmed a nurse practitioner hiring, funding for two more, and approval of four locum positions to increase the recruitment and the availability of doctors in this community.
However, his NDP critic then accused the minister of making a last-minute media announcement, while failing to deliver conditions for their nurse practitioner success on the ground, claiming that’s no way to run a health care system or an economy.
The minister then noted in the 90’s, when the NDP governed B.C., not one extra medical school position was created, but since 2002, the Liberals have more than doubled the number of doctor training spaces.
He concluded that if action had been taken by the NDP, we would have 1000 more doctors in the province today.