Recent History – 1999
Dec. 16, 1999, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Health care in the South Peace will face some big challenges over the next few years unless the provincial government makes some major changes according to South Peace Health Council (SPHC) chief executive officer Rick Robinson.
Responding to a highly-critical report about health care in B.C. from the Health Association of B.C. (HABC), Robinson expressed support for the recommendations.
The HABC, which represents the province’s hospitals, says B.C. needs 526 beds a year for the next 18 years to care for its growing and aging population.
Growth in terms of the number of people living in the South Peace is slow, Robinson said but the population is aging fairly rapidly. In part that’s because many cannot afford the proverbial condo in Kelowna, but also because many simply choose to retire here.
“Their family’s here, as well as their friends and it’s a great place to live and retire,” he said. “And more of those people are tending to stay local upon retirement so more and more services are going to be required for that segment of the population.”
The HABC is also calling for funding on a three-year cycle instead of on a year-to-year basis. The change would allow the SPHC to do some long-range planning, Robinson said.
Currently, the SPHC simply plans for absolutely no increase. “And then if we get a little bit of an increase that isn’t tied to collective agreements then we can do something with it,” Robinson said. “But those kinds of increases over and above the collective agreement driven costs are very rare.”
Coinciding the funding cycles with the start of the collective agreements would not be necessary, he said, if the province commits to funding collective agreement costs. But in the SPHC’s experience, Robinson said that not all those costs are picked up.
Reflecting an HABC survey of its members, Robinson said the equipment replacement situation is also inadequate.
“If our equipment funding continues from the ministry’s funding perspective the way it has been in recent years, our medical services that we are currently delivering are unsustainable and you can quote me,” he said.
The SPHC got about $89,000 from the province last year, and another 40 per cent of that total from the Peace River Regional Hospital District, for $124,600.
When a simply electro-cardiogram monitor costs $20,000, Robinson said the money doesn’t go far for a health council that has about 230 beds.
“If it wasn’t for local donations and us working very hard with the hospital foundation to try and attract outside funding, we would be in a very desperate situation,” he said.
(The Hospital Foundation is still taking donations through to Christmas for its Christmas tree light up campaign as it strives to reach its goal of 2,000 bulbs at $5 each).
The HABC report was obtained by the Vancouver Sun two days after the heads of three Lower Mainland emergency wards said their departments were so overloaded that they could no longer guarantee critically ill people would get the help they need.
Robinson said that so far the South Peace is avoiding such troubles. He said the emergency wards at Dawson Creek and District Hospital and Chetwynd General Hospital are busy because of colds and flu but no busier than normal for this time of year.