Health Minister Adrian Dix was in Maple Ridge on Saturday, touring the Urgent and Primary Care Centre which opened in Haney Place Mall last month.
His political opponents are saying there aren’t enough doctors to provide an improved level of care, despite opening a new facility.
The NDP government announced 17 such centres around the province, and party Leader John Horgan was in Maple Ridge for the announcement in September.
The centre is open for walk-in clients from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Fraser Health says patients needing treatment for minor cuts, sprains, injuries, prescription refills, fevers, sore throats, ear aches and other non-emergency health problems can access the centre. It is for clients needing care within 12-48 hours. Dix said it is a better option than the ER in many circumstances, and will cut down on wait times at ERs.
Dix said this model of health care, which he called team-based care, is being used in other jurisdictions around the world.
“I give enormous credit to the Maple Ridge Division of Family practice for engaging with us,” said Dix.
The centre was formerly located in a building at the same site as Ridge Meadows Hospital, but that facility will now be used as a COVID-19 testing centre.
Dix said the BC NDP has been prioritizing health care. Last year, for example, it did 252,000 MRIs, where there were only 174,000 in the last year under the BC Liberal government
BC Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Mission Chelsa Meadus said there are still not enough doctors in the community.
“That’s what I’m hearing from primary care – we just don’t have the doctors to deliver the service,” she said. “If you don’t have the doctors, how are you able to deliver the service?
“The funding is just not there to deliver the services promised. It’s one thing to put up a bricks and mortar building, but it’s another thing to have the funding there. We’ve seen that in our community a number of times, where the building goes up, but the services aren’t there.”
She said the BC Liberal party would cut red tape to allow foreign doctors to practise in the province.
Dix also talked about his government’s managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
NDP detractors say Dr. Bonnie Henry is responsible for the province doing better than some jurisdictions at limiting public exposure to the pandemic, not the NDP.
Dix countered that other governments have not listened to their public health experts.
“We made sure health care advice came from the health care experts – not from the premier, not from me, but from Dr. Bonnie Henry,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case in all jurisdictions.”
He gave credit to deputy health minister Stephen Brown, the health authority chairs and others for the COVID-19 response.
“It’s a very large team,” he said.
Election day is Oct. 24, but advance polls are open and hundreds of thousands of people have already vote by mail. With election officials observing COVID-19 safety protocols, Dix said people can vote without fear of an additional exposure to the virus.
“Elections BC has done a great job,” he said.
Meadus said running an election at this time contradicts health advice.
“Dr. Bonnie Henry has said we should all be staying home, and limiting our interactions with others,” she said.
“Thousands of campaign managers and volunteers are now out interacting in ways that they were not doing a month ago. I have serious concerns about that.
“We have definitely elevated the risks, and that’s simply because of an election being called in a pandemic – unnecessarily in my opinion.”