South Surrey town hall meeting airs residents’ health care woes – Cloverdale Reporter


Surrey-White Rick MLA Trevor Halford and Surrey South MLA-elect Elenore Sturko speak to a resident after the town hall meeting.  Alex Browne's photoSurrey-White Rick MLA Trevor Halford and Surrey South MLA-elect Elenore Sturko speak to a resident after the town hall meeting. Alex Browne’s photo
A community health council meeting at Camp Alexandra with five Liberal BC MLAs on September 20 was sparsely attended, but there was no shortage of worrisome issues.  Alex Browne's photoA community health council meeting at Camp Alexandra with five Liberal BC MLAs on September 20 was sparsely attended, but there was no shortage of worrisome issues. Alex Browne’s photo
BC Liberal MLAs (left to right) Elenore Sturko, Trevor Halford, Karin Kirkpatrick, Shirley Bond and Coralee Oakes attended a community gathering on health care at Camp Alexandra on September 20.  Photo by Alex BrowneBC Liberal MLAs (left to right) Elenore Sturko, Trevor Halford, Karin Kirkpatrick, Shirley Bond and Coralee Oakes attended a community gathering on health care at Camp Alexandra on September 20. Photo by Alex Browne

At an afternoon health care council meeting presented by Trevor Halford, MLA of Surrey-White Rock, in Crescent Beach on September 20, panellists almost outnumbered the public.

About 10 people attended the meeting at Camp Alexandra to ask questions and share experiences of Halford and BC’s other Liberal MLAs, Shirley Bond (Prince George-Valemount, Health Critic and Vice-Chairman), the newly elected Elenore Sturko (Surrey South ) and Karin exchange Kirkpatrick (West Vancouver-Capilano) and Coralee Oakes (Cariboo North).

But Halford was unfazed by the turnout, noting the difficulty for many residents attending meetings during a workday.

“We plan to hold many more meetings of this type at different times, including in the evenings,” he told Peace Arch News. “I don’t care if it’s four or 400 – I’m willing to meet with people and listen to their concerns.”

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Even a handful of participants raised serious health care issues, including difficulties accessing physical and mental health services and support, closures of private long-term care facilities, and problems seniors are having in using services that are increasingly going online-only models.

“I’m proud to serve a constituency with many older residents,” Halford said after hearing about a situation where a 99-year-old resident lost phone service after a communications failure with a service provider.

“I don’t want to hear about seniors without phone service in my equestrian sport,” he said, promising to get involved in the dispute. “It’s going to be a health problem.”

Local support for residents is vital, Halford and Sturko agreed, as they pledged assistance to a resident who has a family member whose quality of life has been impacted by the closure of a private long-term care facility with few alternatives in the community to the closure of similar facilities.

Sturko recalled that her predecessor in Surrey South, Stephanie Cadieux, had successfully dealt with patients displaced by a similar closure.

“The best result is a local result,” noted Halford.

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But the overriding concern of residents, the meeting revealed, is the province’s continuing shortage of family doctors. As Bond pointed out, GPs are generally the patient’s first point of contact for screening, testing and access to medical or care facilities, providing important guidance at every step.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say BC’s healthcare system is in crisis,” Bond said.

“We currently have a million British Columbians who do not have a family doctor. Without a family doctor to help you? You’re missing out on preventative care.

“If you call 911, you have no guarantee that an ambulance will come and the nurses will get burned out,” she said

Bond said BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon and the NDP government’s faction in July presented a 10-point action plan on the crisis, including a proposal to ease restrictions on the admission of internationally trained medical workers change.

Bond said many young graduates from BC and across Canada have pursued education abroad because of a lack of places in educational institutions at home.

“We want to bring these internationally trained graduates back home – to where they want to be,” she said.

“We have considered our proposals very carefully, but the government has not responded,” she added.

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“We will continue to hold them accountable and make practical suggestions.”

Halford said he received a letter from his own doctor telling him he was downsizing his practice and that his family may want to consider finding another practitioner.

“Part of the challenge is that things haven’t changed in a decade,” he said.

“Doctors work like small businesses – they have to pay their rent, they have to find and keep staff. I represent a rider who is predominantly senior, when a senior goes to the doctor there is usually a lot of issues to deal with. That means additional work – but there is no fee structure for that.”

Sturko said she met with many doctors and nurses during her recent campaign.

“I’ve seen how desperate healthcare providers are with the government,” she said.

“Not only are they struggling with the significant impact of COVID and the opioid crisis and heat dome over the past year, they also feel disrespected by the lack of support from the provincial government.”


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