On 17 May, British Columbians will make their way to the polls, cast their ballots, and choose the candidate and political party they deem best suited to represent them and govern this province. Health care will certainly be included in the party platforms and will most likely be a hot topic during the campaign.
I am well aware that the demands of being a physician, providing for a family, and ensuring there’s enough leisure time, is all many physicians intend to manage. Therefore, taking the time to become familiar with election issues (not to mention understanding the intricacies of the single transferable vote system), reviewing the candidate options in their communities, and then making time in a busy day to vote is as much as many physicians are prepared to undertake.
But there are a number of physicians who will want to ensure that certain health care issues are effectively debated among the various politicians. Given that health care is the number one issue for British Columbians, it will play a major role during the campaign. There are a number of important health care issues that I would expect our politicians to include in their party’s platform—among them are surgical wait lists, overcrowding in the emergency departments, and primary care renewal. Can politicians effectively relay to their constituents the health care concerns in their community? Can they talk about the health care improvements that are necessary? And will they definitively state which programs and equipment will be put into place to help solve these issues?
The lengthy surgical wait lists are a concern to most British Columbians and are often discussed by politicians and health care providers on the news media. I’ve talked publicly about the need to ensure the accuracy of the data comprising the wait list, the methods of measurement, and the need to move patients through the system faster. An optimal solution would be to open up more operating rooms and give surgeons more operating room time.
There are many other constant and perennial health care concerns that MLAs should be addressing. Overcrowding in the emergency rooms due to the shortage of acute care and longterm care beds is reaching critical proportions. Access issues between specialists and family doctors seems to be a two-way dead-end street—GPs are having trouble finding a specialist to refer their patients and specialists are having trouble finding a GP to manage their patients with chronic conditions. And, a large number of British Columbians (more than 100 000) cannot find a family doctor because of the shortage of practising family physicians augmented by an increasing number of those in practice that are not accepting new patients. I could continue with the problems we encounter every day, but that would be getting off topic.
The BCMA’s election guide is included in this issue of the Journal. It’s a fast read and gives a rundown on the key health care issues that, as physicians, are important in order for us to effectively take care of our patients. It also provides links to the BCMA’s policies and backgrounders and information on how you can get your health care concerns in front of your MLA.
I strongly encourage all BC physicians to review the election guide and become as well informed as possible, given our finite time. Let’s get involved in the democratic process and be sure to question our politicians when we have the opportunity. Most importantly, let’s make our voices heard where it counts most, at the ballot box. Vote for the candidate of your choice, but please vote.
—Jack Burak, MD
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