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Constituency Liaison Program

For more than a decade, HSA has been running the Constituency Liaison Program, an initiative that links HSA members to their local MLAs to ensure that the issues facing our members, our union, and our communities are well understood by all elected representatives in British Columbia.

The program has many benefits. Most importantly, it raises awareness among decision makers about the critical work our members do and the patients and clients they serve in health care and community social services. The issues we bring forward through the program are grounded in the experiences of our members. Through the CL program, we ensure that all elected representatives, no matter what political party they represent, are aware of the challenges we face and the solutions we have to offer.

The constructive relationships built through this program have helped shape government policy and support strong public health care and community social services.

There are currently two streams in the CL program – one with a focus on health care issues, and one that focuses on child development centres.

If you are interested in joining the program, please contact Jaime Matten at jmatten@hsabc.org for more information.

Constituency Liaison topics

Each year the Constituency Liaison program renews activities and revise its focus based on current issues or challenges that our members want to address.

The topics this year are:

  • Expanding WorkSafe presumptive coverage for psychological injury to the whole team of health care and community social service workers; and

  • Services for children and families with special needs, including increased funding for early intervention therapies, stable funding for autism services, and early years mental health services; and
  • Addressing the critical shortages of health science professionals in BC.

Presumptive coverage

Presumptive coverage is a policy currently applied to a set of professions who are likely to experience traumatic events at work, and eliminates some of the onerous bureaucratic barriers placed on workers making a psychological injury claim with Workers Compensation Board.  

When a worker receives a formal diagnosis of PTSD or another mental health disorder as a result of a work-related traumatic event or events, presumptive coverage makes it is easier for that worker to advance a Workers Compensation claim.

Presumptive coverage reduces stress for workers and encourages them to get help when they need it. We know the faster a workers receives help, the faster their recovery.

The Health Sciences Association applauds the BC government’s decision to provide presumptive coverage to some occupations in BC, including nurses and health care aides. However, there are a number of health care and community social services professionals currently not covered by the legislation who face ongoing workplace risks.

The province is currently facing a severe shortage of health care and community social service professionals. We need to ensure that workers filling these critical roles are protected and supported, which includes reducing the barriers to accessing assistance upon receiving a mental health disorder diagnosis.

Read the HSA backgrounder on the topic here. 

Health care and community social service workers often work in high-stress environments and on the frontline of traumatic events and violent experiences. It is their job to care for others in times of crisis, and to put their patients first.

You can read three personal stories of our members here. These stories speak to the pride care providers have in their work, the expertise they provide, and the toll their work takes. These stories comprise a poster series developed by HSA. You can download these posters below:

We are calling on the BC government to expand mental health presumptive coverage to the whole team of health care and community social service workers

Services for children and families with special needs

Early Intervention Therapies

Children with special needs rely on Child Development Centres (CDCs) for early intervention therapies that enable them to participate in activities many families take for granted. Speech language therapy helps develop the ability to communicate, physiotherapy improves mobility and coordination, and occupational therapy enables these children to manage daily living activities.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) funds these therapies for children from birth to age five. There are critical developmental stages where children benefit most from therapy, but because of inadequate funding there are long waits for treatment. This means many children don’t receive therapy at the optimal stage, and in some cases “age out” of the program before receiving therapy.

We are encouraging the government to significantly increase funding to CDC’s for these programs to reduce wait times and ensure children who need these services get them.

Autism Services

MCFD provides an “Individualized Funding” (IF) model, which provides direct funding to families/guardians, to purchase autism services. This model may work well for some families, but it is increasingly evident that does not meet the needs of lower-income and marginalized families. It burdens families with unnecessary stress and anxiety to find appropriate and affordable professional autism services in the open marketplace.

This approach is even more problematic in smaller rural and remote communities where there may be few, or no, professionals who can provide these services on a privately funded basis.

The other deeply problematic outcome, is that this funding model has constrained the ability of non-profit agencies, such as CDCs, to offer sustainable autism programs.

HSA is recommending that MCFD introduce another steam of direct and ongoing funding to Child Development Centres to provide autism services, similar to other program funding for supported child development and early intervention services.

Early Years Mental Health Services

We also know that the foundation for sound mental health is built in the earliest years of life when a child develops capacities for learning and relating to others. Anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and aggression in the pre-school years can have significant negative effects on social and psychological development.

Mental health services are most effective when provided early, and when integrated with other services provided to children with special needs, such as the multidisciplinary, team-based care that CDCs provide. CDCs are an important avenue for providing the full range of mental health supports required by children and their families.

We are recommending that funding be provided to CDC’s to ensure early years mental health services are available.

Read our fact sheet on why we need increased funding for early intervention therapies, autism services and the introduction of early years mental health services in BC. 

Addressing shortages of Health Science Professionals in BC

British Columbia has struggled with shortages of Health Science Professionals in the public sector for many years, including (but not limited to) rehab therapists, diagnostic medical sonographers, medical laboratory technologists, and medical imaging technologists.

COVID-19 has made this challenge more immediate, as our health care system now works down a significant surgical and diagnostic backlog.

The specific reasons for these shortages vary by profession, but generally arise from recruitment and retention challenges, including lack of provincial post-secondary training capacity, competition with the private sector, heavy workload, and professional burnout.

We are pleased to see recent announcement for increased training seats for sonographers, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. But we need more training opportunities, and innovative thinking to attract and recruit people into these fields and into public health care.

We are asking government to implement targeted recruitment and retention measures and continue to create more training opportunities for health science professionals that face public-sector shortages.

Read our backgrounder on the impact of shortages in the health science professions. 

Download Constituency Liaison lobby kit materials here:

Child Development Centre lobby kit

Health Care lobby kit