Does B.C. need a Patient’s Bill of Rights for those using the health care system? – Poll

Last week, B.C.’s Health Minister, Adrian Dix, was in (Kelowna) to make some announcements.

The first day, he was at the B.C. Cancer clinic. It ended up not being an announcement, but an update on the 10-year cancer plan. However, the update that was given highlighted more shortcomings than solutions.

Under the current NDP government, B.C.’s cancer care has suffered a dramatic decline. What was once heralded as Canada’s best is now a system in chaos, with critical wait times skyrocketing.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, radiation treatment wait times in B.C. are now the worst in Canada. The numbers released confirm a dramatic deterioration across all key performance benchmarks between 2017/18 and 2023/24:

• IV chemotherapy treatment wait times are 13% worse.

• Radiation therapy treatment wait times are 18% worse.

• Radiation oncology consult wait times are 16% worse.

• Medical oncology consult wait times are 28% worse.

The government’s response has been inadequate, filled with stopgap measures and lacking in deliverables or clear planning. It’s so bad, patients are being sent to the U.S. for treatment, but that program isn’t even succeeding.

An announcement made a year ago indicated more than 4,800 patients would be helped by sending them to Washington State for treatment, representing approximately 2,400 patients per year.

According to the latest report, once again, the program has failed to meet targets.

• 2,442 patients were referred to receive radiation treatment.

• 684 patients received a consult.

• 640 started treatment.

• Only 599 patients (457 with breast cancer and 142 with prostate cancer) completed radiation therapy.

The second day of Dix’s announcements was almost like déjà vu rather than progress, as the government re-announced creation of care home spaces initially promised in 2020.

Families in Kelowna have waited anxiously for seven years, hoping for a place in long-term care facilities for their loved ones, only to see promises recycled without tangible results. The situation is dire and the toll on families and the healthcare system is severe.

Where do these loved ones go while they wait? Often, it is to a family member’s home but sometimes, when things are too difficult or family is not around or available, they simply stay in the hospital, in the Alternate Level of Care (ALC) ward.

Consider the cost of ALC patients, who occupy around 70 hospital beds on average. Those individuals no longer need hospital-level care but can’t be discharged due to the lack of appropriate long-term care spaces.

The bottleneck exacerbates hospital overcrowding and delays critical care for other patients. Families share heart-wrenching stories of their loved ones languishing in hospitals, deprived of the specialized care they desperately need.

The government’s re-announcement of those spaces, while not delivering on them, is not just a bureaucratic failure but a moral one too. It affects the most vulnerable in our society.

Also, these beds are not ready. The press conference was conducted in front of empty lots, which means that we are three to six years away from a bed being available.

Kelowna deserves much better results.

So, what is the solution? BC United offers an immediate and has offered a pragmatic solution. A commitment to a Patient Bill of Rights that would aim to ensure timely and effective care, providing a framework for accountability and expedited service delivery. The initiative includes clear timelines for care, whether the creation of care home spaces or cancer treatment, and emphasizes patient-centric policies that would prioritize the needs of families and patients alike.

The Patient Bill of Rights would include several critical elements designed to transform and improve the current system—publicly funded healthcare delivered at private facilities, transparent access to your health records, and specific and transparent healthcare performance targets for the system to achieve.

The focus must shift from political posturing to genuine action, ensuring no more families are left waiting in despair. It’s time for a healthcare system that delivers the healthcare we all deserve.


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