Shortly after the one-year anniversary of Elkford’s emergency department closing down, Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka spoke of the challenges faced by B.C.’s health care system.
Shypitka highlighted the issue in a speech in the legislature on Monday.
“One year and counting in an industrial town with no hope in sight,” said Shypitka. “This is unacceptable, and continues to create problems in our part of the province.”
The MLA noted that Kootenay East is not the only riding feeling the pain of a struggling health care system.
“We’ve had people dying while waiting for ambulances. There are close to a million people in B.C. without access to a family doctor,” said Shypitka. “The state of our health care is crumbling. We called out [Health Minister] Adrian Dix to resign. There needs to be some accountability there and we believe he’s failed on every metric possible.”
Shypitka said the shortage of medical workers has also impacted other emergency services.
“With paramedics being in short supply, firefighters are expected to fill the gaps. We have numerous examples on how this led to fatalities around the province,” said Shypitka. “It’s a dire situation where we’re seeing us falling farther and farther behind.”
The BC Liberals suggested a number of changes that Shypitka believes would help.
This includes expanding available seats for medical students at the University of British Columbia to 400, creating a second medical school at Simon Fraser University, increasing the number of international medical graduate residence seats to 150, and reducing barriers for medical professionals coming from elsewhere in Canada or internationally.
Last week, the B.C. government announced a number of changes to the province’s medical system that aim to address some of these issues. This will include changes such as phasing in additional seats in UBC’s medical school and allowing pharmacists to renew prescriptions for a wider range of ailments.
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The local MLA feels the changes that have been brought about thus far have been making progress.
“If all this comes true, we’ll be happy, but you have to wonder what took them so long,” said Shypitka. “This has been a crisis for quite a long time and now they’re coming to the table with all these promises. Talk is cheap, it’s results that count.”