roger knox/morning star                                New Westminster NDP MLA Judy Darcy and opposition leader John Horgan listen to health care concerns at a public forum in Vernon Monday.

roger knox/morning star New Westminster NDP MLA Judy Darcy and opposition leader John Horgan listen to health care concerns at a public forum in Vernon Monday.

Health care concerns discussed

NDP opposition leader and health spokesperson host public forum in Vernon

The key to health care solutions in B.C., says a retired Coldstream nurse, can be found at your local library, “probably buried under tons of dust by now.”

Ev Reade was one of close to 40 people who obliged NDP opposition leader John Horgan and New Westminster MLA – and NDP health spokesperson – Judy Darcy at Vernon’s Best Western Pacific Inn Monday night. The two political leaders hosted a forum to gather the public’s views on quality health care in B.C.

Reade said the problem with health care in the province is a lack of political commitment, and that solutions can be found in a Royal Commission report created in 1990 by the government of the day, the Social Credit Party, and a report Reade helped author.

“There have been numerous studies and commissions throughout the years around the province at great expense to taxpayers to identify issues,” said Reade. “Issues have been identified over and over and over again.”

Reade said, in her opinion, the Royal Commission “is an incredibly accurate identification of health care issues and solutions.”

The commission, she said, identified a lack of health care services such as home care, hospital care, mental health, lack of education, pharmacare, public health, diagnostics, aboriginal health services, health policies, poverty, health management, socio-economic issues and health technology. Many of the topics were discussed Monday.

“The commission made recommendations. The Social Credit party died and the NDP took over,” said Reade. “This party started to implement some of the recommendations with their own twist, of course. Then the Liberal party formed government and thus the dismantling of the NDP initiatives ensued. Politics interfered with progress.”

Reade said in her nearly five-minute presentation that there needs to be “seamless communication and cooperation between the ministries that affect health, such as social development, education, children and family development, aboriginal relations, environment and, of course, health.

“Numbers and statistics have changed but the premise of the Royal Commission still stands,” she said. “There is no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Darcy agreed.

“Health care should not be about ideology or partisan politics,” she said. “It should be about learning from what works and spreading it across the province.

“What we’re great with in health care is pilot projects. What we’re lousy at is system change.”

Said Horgan: “My personal view is good ideas don’t belong to Socreds, Liberals or New Democrats. They’re just good ideas. that’s how I live my life. Public policy is a river. It meanders, goes over rocks, goes over cliffs, slows down and it speeds up. That’s life.”

Horgan said the genesis of Monday’s meeting began at a party caucus meeting held in Vernon in late 2016. What the NDP heard over and over again from the public, he said, was a shortage of health care opportunities in the North Okanagan.

Among the people who spoke publicly Monday were Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis, who stressed a need for mental health issues to be front and centre.

“Mental health is a problem that’s never talked about because of the social stigma attached,” said Louis. “Mental health is something that should be discussed. It doesn’t need to be a stigma.”

Lorne Adamson shared his family’s story about long wait list times. His family member’s journey began nearly four years ago trying to get in to see a neurologist in Kelowna, then having to wait months for MRIs and cat scans.

“We still don’t have a good handle on the situation,” said Adamson.

Horgan and Darcy also heard concerns about rural doctor retention, physiotherapy and lack of a national drug strategy and program in the 90-minute forum.