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Time to tackle health professional shortage

People’s lives are put at risk. People have to make long-distance trips they shouldn’t have to.
DC MLA health staff shortage
Surely you know. "Yes I do, and stop calling me Shirley."

We were constantly warned through the pandemic that we need to stay safe and keep our hospitals and emergency rooms free to tackle the most severe cases.

The worry, from the start, was seeing demand overwhelm the ability to deliver timely, life-saving health care. Here in the Peace a situation has been allowed to build that makes it more and more likely the system will be overwhelmed – not by a pandemic but by normal daily demands. In Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, and in Dawson Creek we have witnessed what no community should face – having ERs and hospitals temporarily closed because of a shortage of doctors and nurses.

It’s not a new problem. It’s one I wrote about back in 2019 and one I have been raising in Victoria ever since. I’m trying to imagine – with some difficulty – what would happen if this situation were repeated in Vancouver, Victoria, or Surrey.

Would the government and the health authorities just shrug their shoulders, or would they take action to protect the health and safety of people? I’m pretty sure there would be the kind of action we have been begging for here in the South Peace. Temporary health care closures have long-lasting impacts.

People’s lives are put at risk. People have to make long-distance trips they shouldn’t have to. If the shortage of health care professionals continues, I fear the community and our futures will also suffer. Having a sometimes-closed ER and hospital is counted as a strike against a community for people looking to move and invest. I have met with many doctors and nurses from across the Peace to discuss the challenges around recruitment and retention.

These are the folks who know what is needed in the system – and have real insights on how we can get more professional to live and work here. I’ve been taking those ideas to both the Ministry of Health and the Northern Health Authority and am working to meet with the health minister to share the potential solutions.

In the meantime, I’ll keep talking to the frontline workers and to community leaders to explore ways we can ensure that the people of the Peace have the same access to reliable around the clock health care as everyone else in the province. I don’t have the solutions at my fingertips, but I know that the status quo won’t solve our challenges. What’s clear is that a new approach is needed to deal with the understaffing once and for all. I want to hear from you so I can take your ideas for a solution to the government and the health authority. 

I know that together – the people of the Peace, local officials, the health authority, and the B.C. Government – we can finally solve this staff shortage issue. And I want to thank those folks who are bearing a heavy burden in these shortages – the women and men on the frontlines of our health care system. These nurses and doctors deserve our support and they need shortages to end so they can keep all of us safe.

My Constituency Office in Dawson Creek is ready to help anyone with any problems with provincial government services. If you’ve hit a roadblock, the office can make inquiries. You can also share your thoughts and ideas by email at mike.bernier.MLA@leg.bc.ca or through my Facebook page at MikeBernierBC, or by calling my office at (250) 782-3430, or 1 (855) 582-3430.