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Provincial government breaks health care promise

The Report: December 2009 vol.30 num.5

AFTER ELECTION PROMISE TO PROTECT HEALTH, CAMPBELL MAKES DEEP CUTS THAT WILL RAISE COSTS IN THE LONG TERM

DURING THE PROVINCIAL election earlier this year, Premier Gordon Campbell promised there would be no cuts to health care despite BCs worsening financial situation.

Just two months later, that promise began to unravel.

On July 15, new Health Minister Kevin Falcon instructed BCs health authorities to find $360 million in savings. Since then, each new day seems to bring news of cuts to programs and services.

The full impact is still not known. Fraser Health Authority is cutting $160 million. Vancouver Island Health Authority is cutting $45 million. Vancouver Coastal is cutting $90 million. Interior Health is cutting $50 million.

Many more cuts are yet to be announced, but already its clear that the impact on patients is severe. Seniors, the mentally ill and those with addictions issues are hardest hit, but with dramatic MRI reductions and some 10,000 elective surgeries cancelled, everyone will feel the impact.

Beyond the immediate impact on the lives of the sick and vulnerable, these cuts appear to sacrifice long-term cost control in favour of temporary, short-term gains, undermining government claims to fiscal responsibility. Delaying diagnostic services leaves people sicker and more costly to treat, while cutting addictions treatment increases costs to the courts system and contributes to greater addictions-related illness.

Further coverage of the specific cuts will be provided in future issues of The Report

 Here are some of the $360 million in cuts announced to date:

  • cancelled328 knee and hip operations for people living in the Interior
  • cutfunding for Atlas Youth Supported Recovery in Terrace, the onlyresidential recovery centre for youth in BCs Northwest
  • cut fundingto help young children access Early Intensive Behaviour Interventionautism program at Queen Alexandra Centre for Children
  • cut 760elective surgeries and 3000 MRIs on Vancouver Island
  • cut almost10,000 MRIs -- and possibly cutting 6000 surgeries and closing 25% ofoperating rooms -- in the Vancouver health region
  • cut funding forNorth Shore Keep Well Society, which helps keep 500 seniors healthy,and Seniors One Stop, which gets 5000 calls yearly
  • cut funding forthe award-winning West Coast Alternatives Society, where drug andalcohol programs for adults, youths and children help 600 residents ayear
  • cut $2 million from contracts with community agencies andnon-profit societies deliverying health services in the Victoria area
  • closed a 36-bed geriatric assessment and rehabilitation unit atVictoria General Hospital
  • closed 25-bed convalescent care unit and an8-bed hospice at Queens Park Care Centre in New Westminster
  • closingadolescent psychiatric unit at Abbotsford Hospital
  • cut social workbudget in Fraser Health region hospitals, resulting in loss of 14positions
  • cut funding for 11 residential care beds at Bear CreekLodge and 11 residential care beds at Newton Regency in Surrey
  • closed42 residential care beds at Peace Arch Hospital
  • eliminated key stafffor Infant Development Program, Aboriginal Development Program andSupported Child Development Program, leaving parents with special needskids with less support
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