B.C.'s Urgent Primary Care Centre plan not working say MLA

Need for family doctors

Do you have a family doctor? Have you tried looking for one recently?

The headlines last week railed against another ill-conceived plan of the provincial government.

This time, the plan was to incentivize new medical school graduates to go into family practice. The graduating class came out with an open letter demanding consultation and clarification before June 30.

The Doctors of B.C. and the B.C. Family Doctors were not consulted on this and were as surprised as the graduates at the news.

Words like “surprised,” “shocked,” “insulted” and “disrespected” were used in describing the announcement.

We can all agree something needs to be done. We are in a family doctor crisis, and most of us know friends and family actively looking for a doctor. In fact, the estimates for the Okanagan are that 45,000 residents are now looking for a family doctor.

It gets worse. I recently met with a family doctor who could count at least 16 additional Okanagan family doctors who will retire in the next year. Most looked for a replacement for their practice for at least three years and did not find one.

What does that mean for our community?

Another 25,000 people will lose their doctor when he or she retires, and the total number in the Okanagan without a doctor will skyrocket to 70,000.

We need primary care. Studies show that the more robust the primary care — family doctors — the less use of acute care , such as hospitals, emergency rooms and ambulances there is. Additionally, and this is the most important point, primary care is the number one way to increase the health of patients and reduce the risk of dying—preventative medicine as opposed to reactive medicine.

Having a family physician is a matter of life and death. So where have they all gone?

Family practice doctors asked for changes. The current way they are paid no longer is financially feasible and it no longer works for how patients want to be treated.

We need big changes - and we needed them yesterday.

This need for change has been exacerbated by the costly and failed Urgent Primary Care Centres (UPCCs).

The only UPCC in the entire valley that is fully staffed is in Kelowna. The UPCC in West Kelowna is only open for a few hours a day.

Under the provincial government, UPPCs do not allow patients to be permanently attached to doctors and they simply operate as mini emergency rooms.

UPCC’s are not a substitute for primary care and they are costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to operate annually.

The massive acceleration of unattached patients looking for family doctors happened when these UPCCs started hiring family doctors away from private practice.

So where do we go from here?

We need this government to listen, to hear the voices of the doctors with active practices, to listen to those doctors who are already in the trenches and have the answers.

Instead, the Minister of Health keeps delivering edicts and taking victory laps on spending (the highest spending in history) but he is not delivering results. Spending without results is not success, it’s waste.

My question for you is this:

Do you believe that we need family doctors?

I would love to hear from you.

I can be reached at [email protected] or call 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

There are better things to spend nearly $1 billion on

Museum money better spent

“If I had a billion dollars…if I had a billion dollars…”

Lately, the Barenaked Ladies song, "If I Had a Million Dollars" has been running through my mind. It all started when the provincial government announced the demolition and rebuild of the Royal British Columbia Museum (in Victoria) will cost (nearly) $1 billion.

Is this what the residents of the Okanagan want nearly a billion dollars spent on?

I don’t think that I am alone in thinking what else (that money) could buy. In fact, a recent poll by Angus Reid said just under 80% of all British Columbians were opposed to (the museum rebuild project). So, the vast majority of British Columbians might be singing the song with me.

So, what would $1 billion build in our community?

I can think of a few things:

• New schools. Rutland Middle School and Glenmore Secondary came to mind. Just imagine what synergies there could be building the high school next to the brand-new Parkinson Recreation Center In fact, a $1 billion could build 35 new schools, all desperately needed in B.C.

• More family doctors. Revise their contracts to make family practice work and attract new grads. Our valley is desperate for more doctors to provide longitudinal care rather than just episodic. Our health depends on it.

• While we're at it, let’s build the last two operating rooms at KGH and staff them with nurses to get people healthy again. One billion dollars could build three new hospitals or at least fund 500 new (hospital) beds across BC.

• A bypass to the north (of Kelowna) to move traffic through the city faster with less emissions.

• A second crossing (of Okanagan Lake), or at least prepare for a multi-mode corridor for high-speed transit.

• More education spaces in UBC Okanaagan and Okanagan College for our kids to attend, like in nursing, physio, education, plumbing, HVAC, and carpentry.

• An incubator for industry and education. Let’s build into our economy for a resilient future to provide for health and education sustainably.

• Lower gas prices.

• Enhanced food security.

• Less tax.

• More transit.

• More seniors' home care and more seniors' living spaces.

• More daycare spaces for kids that are accessible and affordable.

• The complex care facility Kelowna has been asking for to offer hope and dignity for our mentally ill, and true recovery rather than just punting the problem between our emergency rooms, our police force and our streets.

• A zero-waste energy facility to replace the landfill and create low carbon natural gas.

• More housing.

• More rental housing.

And the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love museums and, as the Royal British Columbia Museum is the flagship museum of our province, it has always had the daunting task of protecting and presenting our province’s shared history, especially the history of B.C.’s Indigenous peoples.

Shocking revelations that have come to light over the past few years have shown a need for a fundamental change in how we share our history and narrative. But why is this going to cost nearly $1 billion to accomplish—and take until 2030? An entire generation of schoolchildren will not get to experience the museum.

In fact, a report from 2018 indicated the museum needed renovation not replacement, costing—in today’s dollars—only 10% of what the replacement cost will be. And it would not require any closure.

So, as the song goes, “If I had a million dollars, I’d buy you a house…”.

We might not be able to buy everyone a house with a billion dollars but we most certainly can make them more affordable.

What do you want the government to spend a billion dollars on?

I want to hear from you. Email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Tax break at the gas pumps would help British Columbians

Reducing gasoline taxes

There has been a lot spoken about the cost of gas lately.

My inbox is full of correspondence from people who are struggling to get by. Almost daily, headlines are filled with new record highs in the price per litre, and the increases seem relentless.

Why is it so important? In a nutshell, the price of gas affects the cost of everything. Any item transported will increase in cost, as it takes that much more money to get it to our doorsteps, stores or into our communities.

This increased cost is seen at the grocery store, at the drug store and in building costs, as well as in the cost of clothes and supplies. It affects the cost of travel, whether for a family event like a funeral or wedding, a soccer tournament in a neighbouring city for our children or to travel for businesses trying desperately to recover after the long season of COVID. It affects the cost of everything.

It is also affecting our food security.

I am now hearing of farmers considering letting their fields lie unplanted because the cost to grow and harvest has outpaced what they are able to sell their produce for.

This is time to sound the alarm bell.

While many of these inflationary pressures can be blamed on factors outside our direct control, there are some things the government can do.

Here’s an example:

Provincial gas taxes in the Okanagan account for about 37 cents per litre when it comes to gasoline. Temporarily suspending, or lowering, these taxes would be a step in the right direction in providing immediate relief, especially to those on a fixed income.

The Alberta government lowered its taxes and Albertans saw an immediate 13-cent reduction in pump prices.

As the official Opposition, we have asked the government to do this right away.

British Columbians need action.They need this help now and a $110 rebate from ICBC that hasn’t been sent out yet (to some drivers) isn’t going to cut it.

My question to you is a simple one:

Would saving 10 to 15 cents a litre on gas help you?

I can be reached at 250-712-3520 or at [email protected]

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

MLA wants to inform, and be informed, by readers

B.C. political discourse

(Editor's note: Today we introduce a new weekly column, by Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield.)

This last two years of the pandemic taught us many things.

First, it reinvented our lines of communication. Second, it has showed us how much we need each other. And lastly, it taught us how interconnected our worlds are.

Having taken a jump from the private sector into politics in the middle of the pandemic, it has been a season of forging these new paths, all the while understanding how much more connected politics needs to be with people.

For the last 25 years in Kelowna, I have believed in our potential and in who we are as a collective. I have been so privileged to be a part of this community and I feel a debt of gratitude for the life it has afforded me and my family.

Being the mother of five kids (three of my own and two amazing stepsons), I am fighting for the next generation—for their hopes and dreams.

But I am also part of the sandwich generation, and I understand the complexity of aging in our society. Watching my parents and in-laws through the pandemic, I believe we have so much work to do on supporting seniors in their aging process.

Times have changed but government hasn’t moved quickly enough to stay current with the present needs.

I am an entrepreneur at heart, but also a leader. Over the last 25 years in business, I experienced the highs of economic success and the lows of recession, all the while serving the community on boards and through philanthropy. I believe in how we are connected and in serving our community’s collective voice to get things accomplished.

(In this column) I will share how changes in legislation will affect our business community, as it is the heart of our Okanagan Valley.

My belief in our community, it’s businesses, the families and our interconnectedness hasn’t changed despite the change in my role. I feel becoming an MLA was an extension of who I am in relationships and in business, and it is another opportunity to serve the greater common good.

When I became an MLA, I did so because I believe in people. Without people, neighbourhoods, communities, societies, politics and businesses, nothing exists. It all starts with people. But we also need to be connected to each other.

Hence, this column. I want to hear from you, let you know what we are doing in Victoria and how that might affect you.

As the critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as the critic for Gender, Equity and Inclusion, I will continue to draw attention to the issues at hand, and let you know about policies affecting you. And then it’s your turn to let me know how you feel about what I’m saying.

I want to know what you are concerned about, where you are experiencing difficulties and how your world could improve. I want to know where policy and government is succeeding, and how it could be made even better. I want to help us all understand the decisions that are being made in the Legislative Assembly and how these new laws may affect you and your family.

Through our dialog, I want you to feel empowered and emboldened to make great decisions, and to know your voice matters. I want to feel heard, understood and engaged.

I am looking forward to this journey together and I hope you will come along with me.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission. You can contact her at at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More MLA Minute articles

About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC Liberal MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for the Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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