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The BC Green Party, led by Sonia Furstenau, includes mental health and community health in a holistic new healthcare plan for total well-being among British Columbians.
Nearly one million British Columbians are going without access to a family doctor, impacting their access to basic health support, like prescription renewals, and referrals to specialists for more complex issues, like cancer. They are forced to go to walk-in clinics or hospital ERs, facing excruciating wait times—or go without care and their issues get worse.
“Even when patients try to access a walk-in clinic or hospital ER, they have fewer and fewer options as more walk-in clinics close and hospital ERs shut down for extended periods of time because of staff burnout and shortages,” says Sonia Furstenau, leader of the BC Green Party. “BC’s primary care system is broken.”
Nurses, in particular, have been raising the alarm about shortages, leading to dire conditions in hospitals with nowhere near enough nurses to meet the needs, she says. “There are beds, for example, in BC Children’s Hospital, that have never been used because there is no staff attached to those beds.”
Furstenau has been working relentlessly to push the current government to fix the healthcare system. Under the current model, family doctors operate their practices as small independent businesses and bill the government for their costs.
“It’s a lot like if we told teachers they had to rent space for a classroom, hire admin staff, register students and teach them—then bill the government for everything,” Furstenau says. “It’s inefficient and unsustainable.”
The BC Green Party is proposing a new community health model where different types of physicians and healthcare practitioners work under one roof and collaborate on patients’ needs.
“A strong health care system lets family doctors focus on patient care,” Furstenau says. “BC Greens want government to provide the physical infrastructure of community health centres, so that family doctors can focus on patient care, alongside other healthcare providers.”
For example, family doctors in Whistler might work with sports medicine practitioners and physiotherapists in their community health centre, while family doctors in Qualicum Beach might work with dieticians and occupational therapists focused on seniors.
A new system would also explore connections between health outcomes and factors outside of healthcare, such as housing, income, community infrastructure, education, access to nature, transit and human connection.
“All of these impact our health,” Furstenau says. “Applying a health and well-being lens to government decision making helps create conditions across our province that keep people healthy.”
Healthcare in the 21st century also needs to include proper mental healthcare, which is currently not covered by BC’s “universal” public healthcare system. “To access mental health support, British Columbians have to pay for it, frequently costing hundreds or thousands of dollars a month,” she says. “Most British Columbians cannot afford this, so go without the care they need.”
To learn more, visit | bcgreens.ca/healthcare_newsletter
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