John Kidder (Green Party) provided the following answers to our Health Care Questions:
1. Over the past ten years, rural B.C. communities have experienced a gradual erosion of health services and reduced accessibility to timely health care. Acute doctor shortages, scheduled closures of emergency departments, increased waitlist times, cutbacks in community nursing services, and difficulties with transportation to specialized services in regional centres are indicative of a health care system unable to meet the needs of rural patients.
If you are elected to the legislature in the 2013 provincial elections, what will you and your party do to reverse this trend and improve accessibility for rural residents?
*Communities cannot thrive without basic services. One of the Green Party’s basic pledges is to reduce inequities in health care, by paying greater attention to the needs of rural communities.*
*Provision of hospital health services to rural communities requires a shift in government’s economic thinking. Health authorities now must focus on a narrow definition of economic “efficiency” to secure funding from the province, which puts all the emphasis on reducing the direct and overhead costs of service delivery. This leads inevitably to centralization and achievement of economies of scale without accounting for the other costs borne by the communities affected.*
*If elected to the Legislature, Greens, and John Kidder in particular, will strongly promote and argue for a broader approach to rural health care. Hospital acute care and emergency services must be available within an hour of almost any rural resident. Community clinics must be established and staffed with salaried employees to ensure reliable access to necessary care. Ambulances, paramedics and other first responder services must be properly funded and treated as a high priority, rather than simply as a way to reduce local health services by providing transport to care.*
2. In February 2012, Kim Carter, Provincial Ombudsperson, released Public Report No. 47, The Best of Care: Getting It Right for Seniors in British Columbia (Part 2). In her report she presents 143 Findings and makes 176 Recommendations for improving care for seniors in our province.
What steps would you and your party take to implement the recommendations
in this report?
*BC Greens support and will follow the BC Ombudsperson’s recommendations.*
3. Provincial health authorities seem to have lost the trust of the people they serve.
What action will you and your party take to reestablish that trust, making our health authorities more accountable and more responsive to the needs of rural communities?
*Greens believe that local decisions will better address local needs and opportunities. First of all, BC Greens will establish Regional Health Trusts based on the demographic and geographic realities of British*
*Columbia to replace Health Authorities. These Trusts will be more knowledgeable of and responsive to local issues than a centralized Health Authority can be.*
*Well managed processes and communications are central to rebuilding trust. BC Greens will ensure that Health Trusts are properly mandated and facilitated to ensure that residents and community representatives are consulted and properly heard, and that healthcare policies and decision parameters are transparently and openly discussed before decisions are taken.*
4. The demand for rural doctors exceeds the supply. In competition with each other, rural communities have resorted to providing incentives such as subsidized housing, paid for by local governments, businesses, or private citizens. To be able to compete in the resulting “bidding war”, rural communities are now in a position where incentives are a requirement.
What is your party’s response to this situation?
*It is unconscionable to require small communities to bid against one another to bribe doctors to locate there. Over the long term, Greens believes that all doctors should be paid with salaries rather than through a fee-for-service model. This will “level the playing field” somewhat, and reduce the incentive for doctors to seek out only highly paid specialist practices in urban centres. In the near term, a Green government will establish 24-7 clinics in rural areas staffed by salaried doctors and nurse practitioners.*
5. Rural communities in British Columbia share similar health care concerns. However, each community’s health care requirements vary according to the demographics of the community.
As a candidate in the provincial election, what do you consider to be the most important health care issues in your constituency? And how would you address them?
*In Fraser-Nicola, the most important health care issues are care for the ageing population, provision of hospital services, early childhood wellness, and healthcare for First Nations.*
*Support for elders requires access to doctors in communities, improved delivery of home health services, and enhanced emergency services for acute issues. While we must also enhance institutional facilities for the ageing, there is little doubt that more nurse-practitioners and other home health care services on the ground can reduce the need for intensive services and improve quality of life. The Green Party also supports the accreditation of nurse-practitioners to carry out a number of health functions now restricted to doctors, in order to encourage more at-home health delivery.*
*Provision of hospital services is addressed above.*
*Early childhood wellness is a critical and under-recognized issue in Fraser-Nicola. Our children score among the very lowest on a number of educational indicators, many of which are related to basic health and nutrition. Children entering school with such disadvantages are unlikely ever to catch up, and as a result, school achievement in Fraser-Nicola is also at the lowest levels in the province. Greens believe that basic wellness is a fundamental requirement of any health care system, and will devote significant resources to early nutrition, child home healthcare, and to improved education and extension for wellness-related activities.*
*First Nations healthcare is an essential part of rural health. As part of the federal government’s continuing vacating of responsibilities, billions of dollars of federal and provincial funding will be transferred to the newly created First Nations Health Authority (“FNHA”). The FNHA will manage and deliver First Nations Health Programs and carry out other health and wellness related functions. While the bulk of the money and responsibility is coming from the federal government, the FNHA will collaborate with the BC Ministry of Health and BC Health Authorities to integrate programs and services, and to incorporate and promote First Nations knowledge and models of health and healing into health programs. The Green Party of BC will place a high priority on ensuring that this collaboration is positive and respectful.*
6. On March 14th, the provincial government passed the Seniors Advocate Act. Although this is a positive step for senior citizens in British Columbia, the advocate position is not established as an independent office of the legislature and cannot be the effective critical watchdog that it needs to be.
If you are elected to the legislature would you support an independent seniors advocacy position with real authority to act on behalf of seniors?
*Greens support a seniors advocacy position as an effective critical watchdog, and will ensure that the Seniors advocate is independent and properly funded. The “real authority to act” of such an advocacy position will, however, be limited – criticism and reporting are the functions of an advocate – in our parliamentary system, the authority to act must always remain with the elected legislature and its ministries.*