Under the BC NDP’s government watch, corporate delivery of health care is creeping into our provincial healthcare system. We are seeing this corporatization of primary healthcare with Telus Health and their partners Babylon. To be clear, a private multi-billion dollar corporation is delivering health care in this province, and charging a fee for “premium” access. I asked Adrian Dix why this is happening – no response.
S. Furstenau: When asked yesterday about growing inequality in accessing primary health care services in this province, the Minister of Health says that he has referred the matter to the Medical Services Commission. The Medical Services Commission is responsible for ensuring that all B.C. residents have reasonable access to medical care, including diagnostic imaging.
Yesterday my colleague brought up the fact that British Columbians are being forced to pay for these services. The minister implied that this government is okay with services such as diagnostics and preventative screenings requiring a fee because, as he said, they are “non-medically necessary services, beyond the health care system.”
So on the one hand, the minister says that he is concerned with inequality in our health care system, but in the same response, he indicates that his government is comfortable with British Columbians paying extra fees for access to health care.
My question is to the Minister of Health. Does the minister see these additional fees as creating two-tiered health care, based on the ability to pay in British Columbia?
Hon. A. Dix: I’m very surprised the member talks about diagnostic services. In the final year of the previous government, we did 174,000 MRIs in British Columbia. Last year, during COVID, we did 252,000. That work was done by health professionals, and it made a real difference.
When you, as we had in the north, underserve MRIs, as happened — less than half of the national average of MRIs in those communities…. When you underserve them in a place, people have no option for medically necessary care, often — to get that — and we changed that.
How did we do it? By going in…. There was one MRI machine going 24-7 in the public system. There are now 12. We bought from the private sector additional MRI capacity, and we added MRIs all over the province, including here on Vancouver Island.
This improves public health care. It improves public health care for everyone, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.
S. Furstenau: I wasn’t speaking specifically about diagnostics. I was speaking about the reality. The question was very clear, and it was following on the question from my colleague yesterday.
There are clinics in British Columbia that are charging additional fees so that patients can access diagnostic and preventive health care services. My question to the minister was about where he stands on the fact that people are paying additional fees to get additional access to primary health care in British Columbia.
At the same time, under this government’s watch, corporate delivery of health care is creeping into our system. We are seeing a corporatization of primary health care with Telus Health and their partner, Babylon. To be clear: a private multi-billion dollar corporation is delivering health care and charging additional fees to people who want access to premium care.
My question, again, to the Minister of Health, can he explain to British Columbians how and why, under his watch, a global telecommunications company is delivering health care in our province?
Hon. A. Dix: The members did ask questions yesterday with respect to a clinic in the member for Saanich North and the Island’s constituency. He’ll know, and I think that he knows this, that last year the Medical Services Commission did take action. They got a response from the clinic. The clinic worked its way back into compliance. Of course, we’re still working with that clinic.
So what that means is the actions that we have taken to improve the Medicare Protection Act to bring in force sections of that act that had been left dormant have seen real results for people. We’re going to continue to do that in every case.
The New Democratic Party — as people will know, but it’s not just us; I think it is all members of this House — is the party of public health care. I will continue to do everything that I can, including adding MRIs, including repatriating workers who have been contracted out, including bringing back services in his constituency and others for home care, including building hospitals in the public system for the public. That is what we’re going to continue to do under this government.