In the final forum ahead of election night on Oct. 24, the Boundary-Similkameen candidates answered questions from the Support Our Health Care Society on Oct. 20.
Topics ranged from how to attract doctors to rural areas, to long-term care and support for community health centres.
Edward Staples moderated the forum, and all four candidates — BC Liberal candidate Petra Veintimilla, BC NDP Roly Russell, BC Conservative Darryl Seres and Wexit BC candidate Arlyn Greig — participated.
The first question focused on the difficulty that some people can have getting the medical care they need. The responses from the candidates are listed in the order they were given during the forum.
Seres pointed to the costs of travel being prohibitive, and the need to bring doctors to more rural or less attractive communities, saying that tax credits and tax incentives could be a start to solving those issues.
Veintimilla, in addition to supporting the potential for incentives to attract additional doctors, proposed improving internet access to rural communities and bolstering the availability and usage of tele-health to supplement existing medical services.
Russell spoke on the need for improved transit access for people to make appointments, not only in cost but also in the time taken to travel to them. He also echoed the need to invest in specialists and remote health opportunities to rural communities.
Greig called on bringing in medical graduates with five-year contracts and providing them with either relief for their student loans, as well as improving internet access across the riding.
Another question pointed to how COVID-19 has highlighted mental health and addiction issues across the province.
Veintimilla pointed to the BC Liberal party’s platform as well as her own personal push for addiction to be recognized as a mental health disorder and treat as one, with funding for additional mental healthcare workers, addiction treatment and recovery programs and improve mental health support in schools.
The NDP’s record in instituting ministry for mental health and addictions and the need for more resources for that ministry was Russell’s first point, and a decline in some death rates in 2019. He noted that communities in the region from Princeton to Grand Forks to Penticton, are facing a surge in overdoses and that the issue is not solely a rural or urban one.
Greig called for harm reduction practices, and the need to bring health care workers and families together as part of a solution.
Better funding for non-profits, access of families to relatives in care facilities, and investments in treatment for addiction to provide immediate access were all commitments that Seres made.
All of the candidates committed to support of the public system of healthcare in the province, although BC Liberal candidate Veintimilla and BC Conservative candidate Seres did allow for a degree of private services.
“I personally don’t see the problem for someone to go have a service provided,” said Seres. “As long as it’s not taking away from the public system.”
“Once we have a system that is robust and does provide service to everyone, service that everyone needs,” said Veintimilla “It seems rational to me that in addition to a robust, and fully-functioning system that those that could afford to pay for their service outside of that system, it would allow those of us in the public line to move up more quickly.”
The full video of the forum is available on the SOHC website at sohc.ca.
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