Private health care discussed in Pemberton 

Affluent Canadians frustrated by public health care service

Chairman of the Vancouver Coast Health Authority Keith Purchase said in Pemberton last week that financially secure Canadians would not stand for the lack of choices in the health care system for much longer.

Purchase made the comments at a Pemberton Chamber of Commerce meeting where he outlined what the VCHA’s mandate was and spoke about some of the initiatives and challenges facing communities in the Sea-to-Sky corridor.

Purchase said one of the concepts he struggled with was the fact that the system was not good at catering for people who can afford private care.

Approximately 30 per cent of the Canadian health care system is privately run, but some politicians believe that public patients should have more access to private care if the waiting times for operations are excessive.

The more popular argument is that health care is a provincial issue and the Federal government should provide more funds so the provinces can better the public system.

"The way the Canadian system is now, you’ve really got to be in one system or the other (private or public), you can’t really be in both and I struggle with that," Purchase said.

"Health care is about the only thing people with money don’t have options with.

"If you’ve got some disposable income, you want to pay and you don’t want to wait you should have more choices in Canada and I don’t think the public are going to stand for that much longer.

"But this is a debate beginning to occur between the Feds (federal government) and the provincial governments and hopefully there will be some change with the coming election."

Federal funding is a significant concern for any health organization but Purchase said Canada’s aging population was putting the most pressure on the health care system.

"Our studies are showing that in Vancouver the over 55 population will increase 30 per cent every year in the next decade, which is quite substantial" Purchase said.

Advances in technology, such as the new teleradiology equipment that will soon be in Whistler, will almost certainly improve treatment methods, but the problem is that it can be costly for patients to access new treatments.

But Purchase said the VCHA was working towards better systems for outsourcing and linking doctors and nurses with patients, which would help reduce costs and improve treatment.

"Our role is to govern and manage and deliver quality health care," Purchase said.

"We’re constantly trying to work at getting better linkages to our doctors and nurses with our patients.

"It’s also important that we try and get treatment for them closer to where they live.

"The question that we’re addressing is how do we keep people in their neighbourhoods and get the right care to them?"

"Our mandate is that we’re not going to be able to do it for you, but we could do it with you."

Cindy Welsh from North Shore/Coast Garibaldi Health attended the meeting in Pemberton and she agreed that planning for changes in the population was one of the biggest challenges facing the Sea-to-Sky corridor.

"In the Sea-to-Sky corridor in particular the two big challenges that our management team is facing and are planning for is population growth, which is huge," Welsh said.

"But at the same time we’re going to see some planning for the Olympics.

"We do have excellent care providers and physicians, we just need to evaluate what we need going forward and plan for that.

"We recently created a Sea-to-Sky management team and that involves all the physician leaders in all the communities and administrative leaders," she said. "There’s also a bunch of other folks who we need input from in the group and we just had our kick-off meeting roughly a month ago.

"So we’re putting all the right people in the right places now it’s just a matter of working towards a solid strategy."

Access to care for severe injuries is another ongoing concern for most people in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, particularly in Whistler, because of the number of injuries related to recreational activities.

Purchase said Vancouver General Hospital would remain the main centre of care in this region but he agreed that the number of injuries in this area was a concern.

"Vancouver emergency is obviously inundated with people who are injured on the slopes.

"The thing about this now is that we used to have a down time, or a shoulder season, but now with the mountain bikes there isn’t really any downturn.

"But Vancouver General looks after the entire province not just Whistler and I don’t think that will change, but it’s certainly something we’re looking at."

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