Recent History – 2001
Dec. 13, 2001, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
A single Northern Health Authority (NHA) will govern health care in the northern half of the province under the B.C. Liberals’ long-expected restructuring program, announced Wednesday.
Health Planning Minister Sindi Hawkins said in a teleconference that the NHA takes over the budgets, totaling $271 million, of 11 community health councils, and the three other bodies that administered health care from Quesnel to the Yukon border.
The NHA has been further divided into three health service delivery areas, including one for the northeast, previously covered by the Fort Nelson-Liard, North Peace and South Peace Community Health Councils and the Peace-Liard Community Health Services Society.
But so far, the NHA consists of just two people. Harry Gairns, a professional forestry engineer based in Prince George, was appointed chair of the NHA, and Peter Warwick, the former chief executive officer of the North Coast Community Health Council, was appointed the chief executive officer.
Warwick has been given the task of reviewing the management structure of the new region and will make recommendations to Gairns in the new year.
“Quality health care for people in the north is a priority,” said Gairns. “Our commitment to the communities that we serve is that both the board and management team will do their best to ensure the most consistent and high quality health care possible to the people of northern B.C.”
For the province as a whole, the number of health authorities was reduced from 52, with 600 appointees, to five plus a Provincial Health Services Authority. Hawkins said the former health governance model was one of the most complicated and expensive in the country, resulting in inefficient and often ineffective management of health-care resources.
The restructuring is expected to save about $20 million province-wide over the next three years.
“Under the old approach, northern communities were forced to compete with each other for the same pool of nurses, doctors and resources, making it difficult for patients to access treatment in a timely manner,” she said.
“At a time of growing demands across the health system, we need to bring northern communities together under a strong management team and ensure decisions are made that focus on delivering high quality patient care.”
Although the NHA covers roughly 60 per cent of the province’s land mass, Health Services Minister Colin Hansen pointed out that only eight per cent of B.C.’s population lives in the north.
“Yes, it is a huge region that has unique challenges, but we think that with a good delivery system, those challenges can be met,” he said.
Hawkins said up to nine people with the skill sets to deal with complex, multi-million-dollar budgets will be sought to sit on an NHA board of directors.
Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom said he wants to ensure that there is equal representation on the board from all areas of northern B.C.
“My concern is that if it’s going to be a nine-member board, there will be three members from the northeast, three members from the northwest, and three members from the Prince George area,” Lekstrom said.
Hansen said the province is also developing a new needs-based funding formula and added that the north will get its share of funding.
“It will reflect not just the number of people in the region,” he said. “It will also reflect the demographic differences and it will also reflect the remoteness from the acute care hospitals,” he said.