Katrine Conroy

Katrine Conroy

Kootenay West candidates weigh in on health care

The first in a three-part Q&A with Kootenay West candidates. First round: health care.

B.C.’s provincial election is May 9 and so far Kootenay West has three candidates in the running. Incumbent Katrine Conroy, NDP; Jim Postnikoff, Liberal; and Samantha Troy, Green Party.

The Rossland News will be asking the candidates three questions, addressing three different election issues, over the next three weeks leading up to the election. This week we asked about health care.

Rossland News: Given an aging Boomer population how do you and your party propose to create and maintain adequate health care infrastructure for the region? Do you have a strategy for attracting health care professionals to the region?

Katrine Conroy: We will take action to make our health-care system work for our region in a number of ways. Improving access to family doctors and other medical professionals will be the top priority for our Ministry of Health. We’ll develop a new urgent care model that gets emergency room visitors the health-care support they need faster, and we’ll implement an improved medical travel allowance to help people here access services not provided in our region. We will also work with the IHA and the local communities who are engaged in attracting health-care professionals to the region.

Some of the other initiatives we will deliver include reducing the cost of prescription drugs; investing in new hospitals and care facilities in communities across B.C., plus home care and quality long-term care for B.C. seniors; and also investing in more paramedics, so that no one is left waiting for an ambulance in their time of critical need.

We will implement province-wide coordination to manage and actively monitor waitlists and speed up service delivery and stop the decline in rural health services.

Can you imagine taking a bath less than once a week? Or waiting for hours to use the washroom? Today too many B.C. seniors are denied personal care, comfort and dignity and nine in 10 seniors’ care homes don’t meet minimum government standards.

We will make seniors a priority. We will help them stay in their own homes longer, improve the consistency of care in care homes and create a legislative committee focused on improving the care and lives of seniors.

Giving support to seniors to stay at home as long as possible is the right thing to do. We will increase the length of home support visits and expand the scope of services provided.

Seniors who move into residential care can expect increased support and more accountability from providers and their staff, so they receive the high quality, dignified relationship-based care they deserve. We will conduct a review to establish and maintain safe staffing levels that aren’t disrupted by contracting out or contract flipping. Working with our dedicated health-care professionals in our region, we will put the care back in health care.

Jim Postnikoff: Adequate health care needs to be a priority. Phase 1 of the Trail Regional Hospital, valued at $18 million, has been announced. The second and third phases of upgrades need to be collaborated on and get all stakeholders together to explore the possibility of bringing these new phases to fruition.

City of Castlegar needs 24/7 emergency health care for its citizens. I will, if elected, pursue these initiatives.

The government is allocating $2.7 billion more toward the building and upgrading of hospitals over the next four years. The government is also providing 500 additional long-term care beds and 5,500 more hip and knee surgeries over the next two years. By creating a strong economy in our region, this will attract young professional to live and grow together here.

Samantha Troy: Our health is perhaps the most important aspect of life for human beings. Without good health, our quality of life is seriously affected, our productivity reduced, and our enjoyment of life is limited.

Wellness is the condition of good health and freedom from disease. Some drivers of wellness are genetic and beyond our control. We can, however, influence socio-economic factors, and help people make healthy choices. Choices and self-management are important for wellness.

The BC Green platform policies promote good health by improving access to healthy food, education, income, housing, exercise and recreation. The benefits from a healthy natural environment for human physical and mental wellness should also not be underestimated.

The BC Greens support a community-based public health-care system that is patient-centric and committed to fairness, local control and accountability.

The BC Greens support outreach, education and programs that proactively address the root causes of health problems including poverty, unhealthy lifestyles, and environmental degradation. The BC Greens have a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that includes affordable and low-cost housing solutions and increased employment opportunities to equalize the opportunities for wellness for all British Columbians.

A BC Green government will roll MSP premiums into the payroll tax and personal income tax to ensure that they are administered in a more equitable and progressive manner. As it stands presently, B.C. is the only province in Canada to charge a regressive MSP premium, which unfairly burdens low- and fixed-income persons. BC Greens support measures to promote healthy aging to allow seniors to live with dignity and independence. Proactive measures to prevent pain and injury include access to exercise programs and early interventions to address injuries or health issues before they become serious.

Access to a diversity of health-care providers such as nurse practitioners, a range of health-care approaches, proactive treatments such as physiotherapy and massage, mental health care, and addictions management can speed recovery, reduce the need for more costly acute care, and provide a better quality of life. BC Greens support an integrated, multi-disciplinary health-care system in which the workload of doctors is reduced by enabling other health-care professionals such as nurse practitioners and midwives to provide appropriate services.

BC Greens will support professional training by supporting the implementation of needs-based grants for post-secondary studies, and by supporting tax forgiveness of up to $2,000 a year for up to five years to assist qualifying graduates to re-pay outstanding debt incurred for tuition fees.

The health care needs of our region, including its infrastructure maintenance, staffing requirements, and adaptations to accommodate our changing demographics, are interconnected with our ability to address these core issues of social stability.