Around British Columbia in recent weeks, far too many people have had a frightening experience – driving to their local emergency room, only to find it closed.
Several areas, especially in northern and rural B.C., have been hit by doctor and nurse shortages so catastrophic that ERs have simply had to shut their doors on some days. There just aren’t enough personnel to keep them running.
Meanwhile, despite years of efforts by both the current NDP and the previous Liberals, one in five British Columbians does not have a family doctor.
That’s about one million people, in other words.
Some folks have likely given up trying to find one, it having been years since there were enough general practitioners to serve the people.
In response to this, one B.C. couple placed an ad in the newspaper seeking a family doctor. Through this unorthodox route, they found one.
That prompted Premier John Horgan to quip that perhaps B.C. should take out an ad of its own, to convince the federal government to cough up more money for health services.
That kind of flippant response isn’t helpful, and shows that Horgan, and perhaps our leadership more generally, aren’t taking the current crisis seriously enough.
For years, we’ve had multiple difficulties with doctor shortages and health staffing in B.C.
There have been issues getting enough foreign-trained doctors and nurses certified. It’s hard to hire and keep doctors in remote and rural areas. There have never been enough family doctors to go around.
The COVID-19 pandemic and an aging population are putting even more pressure on the health system, as professionals struggle with burnout.
Part of the current problem is the latest Omicron wave of COVID-19 sweeping across Canada. Even among triple-vaccinated health care workers, absenteeism is up as people sit at home, sick and unable to work for fear of infecting their co-workers and patients.
That wave will abate in time, but the underlying doctor and nursing shortage won’t go away when this wave passes.
Horgan is stepping down as premier in the near future, but he’s still in charge right now. His party will be in charge for a couple more years, too.
Instead of sarcasm, perhaps Horgan could try, just maybe, doing things? Yes, more federal funds would be helpful. But don’t pretend that provincial hands are tied. Even a partial solution would be better than a bad joke.
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