B.C.’s health-care crisis is unrelenting. What can be done to fix it?


situation critical is a series from CBC British Columbia reporting on the barriers people in this province face in accessing timely and appropriate healthcare.

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Vancouver Island resident Joy Williamson hasn’t had a family doctor for 10 years.

During this time she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

While she is undergoing treatment, she worries about what will happen when that treatment ends, especially if the cancer returns.

“I’ll be released if I don’t have one [general practitioner]. That really worries me.”

Their story is all too well known in BC

An estimated one in five — nearly a million — British Columbians do not have a family doctor, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to BC’s health crisis. Emergency rooms in rural communities have had to close. Waiting times for emergency and specialty care continue to increase, and paramedic shortages have serious, sometimes fatal, consequences.

Allan Greenwood’s sister Lorrie Williams suffered a stroke last month and waited an hour for an ambulance despite living just minutes from the hospital in New Westminster.

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She is now partially paralyzed and Greenwood worries about her future.

“I’m angry at the people who are being paid to take care of the system, who aren’t doing their jobs, who have allowed it to get to this state. And people will continue to get brain damage or die because the ambulance isn’t working there. If you need an ambulance, you need an ambulance.”

Michael Mort, 82, who suffers from heart and nerve conditions, was suddenly left without a doctor after retiring in Victoria last year. His wife, Janet Mort, went so far as to place an ad in the local paper looking for nursing. Luckily for Mort, it worked.

“All I could think about was [to] reach the public. Certainly there is a compassionate doctor out there who will hear my appeal and squeeze him in as another patient,” said Janet Mort.

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The list goes on.

All this while the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the poison drug crisis claims hundreds of lives every month.

Some blame the province’s fee model, others the immense pressure placed on healthcare providers.

“I don’t think there is a simple answer,” said emergency and general practitioner Kara Perdue. Perdue works in Clearwater, BC, where the ER has been closed several times in recent months due to staff shortages.

She wants decision-makers like provincial and federal ministers and local health officials to speak directly with health workers about the issues they are monitoring to develop a plan.

In addition, she said that funding other types of healthcare, such as B. Mental health support and programs for the elderly, will take pressure off primary and emergency health care providers.

In the long term, Perdue said, there needs to be more training for doctors and nurses.

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“I think part of that is the changed expectation of nurses and doctors’ jobs compared to 10 years ago, 20 years ago,” she said.

“A lot of people who enter either profession don’t feel adequately prepared by the schooling they had.”

On Tuesday, September 20, CBC Vancouver will host a town hall to discuss the crisis and what can be done to alleviate the situation.

Joining hosts Belle Puri and Anita Bathe are BC Health Secretary Adrian Dix, GP Dr. Rita McCracken and Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, the President of Doctors of BC

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Town Hall begins at 6:00 p.m. PT and runs until 7:00 p.m. PT.

You can hear City Hall on CBC Radio One across the province, watch it on CBC TV, and stream City Hall live on CBC Gem, YouTube, Facebook, and cbc.ca/bc. Email your questions to panelists at [email protected]



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