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Life and death in the balance


If you have been reading this column over the last months, you know I’ve written frequently about our health care system.


Mostly our primary system, where a million British Columbians are without a family doctor.

This last week showed us more of the story of the entire health care system.


An open letter delivered by a group of cardiologists, respirologists, orthopaedic surgeons, radiologists and their member organizations, sounded the alarm bell in BC for those that are left waiting for care.


They revealed that, in addition to the million British Columbians without a doctor, there are another one million British Columbians on wait lists to see specialists.


The letter states, “Patients are getting sicker and dying on our waitlists…Urgent Primary Care Centres and emergency departments are overwhelmed and can’t provide immediate access to specialists. Increased admissions strain the already overburdened hospital system, and cost even more in both dollars and patient suffering.”


Patients are getting sicker and dying on our waitlists.


When I read that, my heart sank.


This is something that I have witnessed in those that are close to me and have heard from constituents in Kelowna.


There are so many waiting for care. And finally, it was quantified for us.


These are not just headlines, there are real people behind the numbers.


Neighbours, family, friends.


We are not just patients, we are humans – deserving of so much more dignity than we are receiving in our health care system.


I am using the word “system” intentionally, as this is not about the healthcare providers.


They are the heroes of this story. The nurses, doctors, care aids, janitors, lab techs, x-ray technicians, therapists – they keep going to work understaffed, feeling unsupported, and terribly under-resourced.


Just two short days later, another article came out about cancer care in BC.


People are waiting longer in BC to see an oncologist and receive treatment than any other province.


The longer someone waits for cancer treatment, the worse their potential outcomes.


The BC Cancer insider referenced the highest levels of burnout and stress of any other area of medicine.


Frontline doctors are suffering along with their patients.


The specialists spoke of “exhaustion”, being “demoralized” and it being “soul-destroying”.


These are the empaths of our society, those that wish to help us heal. Those that have chosen a life surrounded by need. They went into medicine to heal, not to watch people get sicker and die.


This lack of resources and support are causing doctors to quit, and further exacerbating the situation.


Sadly the BC Government has been almost silent on these issues.


The letter from the specialists notes that they asked for a meeting in June but have yet to hear from the Minister of Health. This letter asks again for a meeting, as the situation is only more dire now.


British Columbia is beautiful.


It is an amazing place to live but our healthcare system is last on too many lists right now.


Being last is truly a matter of life and death.


My question to you this week is this:


How are you experiencing the healthcare system right now, and what would you do to change it?


I love hearing from you!


Email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call my office at 250-712-3620.

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