Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rural health themes mark lengthy exchange in Legislature between MLA Rice and Health Minister Lake

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice
had a range of questions for the
Minister of Health during the debate
on Budget of supply for the
Ministry of Health
The Monday afternoon debate on the Committee of Supply on Estimates for the Ministry of Health found North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice raising a number of issues related to rural health, as the MLA used her allotment of time during the process to ask a number of questions of Health Minister Terry Lake.

Among some of her points were items related to patient travel, the travel assistance program, patient travel network, tele-health, rural surgery and maternity and children's health issues.

The Health Minister offered up a range of options that are available in the province and the nature of some of the partnership agreements that municipalities have with regional health authorities and some of the efforts that they are incorporating towards healthy living initiatives.

Over the course the exchange which lasted over an hour and a half, Ms. Rice inquired on each of her topic points, with the Minister providing a fairly comprehensive review of each of the talking points, at times noting that further information would require background from ministry officials or other health providers in the province.

On the theme of the Travel Assistance Program, Ms. Rice raised a number of concerns related to the delivery of that service to such areas as Haida Gwaii and Bella Coola, the majority of them related to the lack of transportation options to those area.

She also returned to her previous themes in the Legislature of the elevated levels of lead in the drinking water at Prince Rupert schools and other schools in the province, noting her private members bill and a call for mandatory testing.

The minister speaks about the fact that this is not a new issue, that we've known about this issue for some time. He talks about the fact that plumbing and plumbing fixtures prior to 1989 had a high likelihood of lead being used in the materials. But he said that people have likely forgotten and been complacent. 

I think that's exactly what's happened in communities in the northwest, where we live in a temperate coastal rainforest with a low-pH, high-acidic water, meaning that our water is aggressive. That, combined with the fact that we have the oldest housing stock in British Columbia…. 

The double whammy of those two factors has actually put people at risk and, particularly, vulnerable people such as babies and children. I introduced a bill recently that would actually deal with the fact that people have forgotten and been complacent. 

My question would be, to the minister: would he consider mandatory testing and reporting of all B.C. schools for lead in their drinking water?

Health Minister Terry Lake faced a
number of questions related to the debate
on Ministry of health Budget planning
The Minister outlined the steps that the Ministry of Health  and Education have taken to this point on the issue adding that from the point of view of the Health Ministry there is no plan in mind to have mandatory testing.

The North Coast MLA's final questions of the session involved a look at the issues of maternity care and how Haida Gwaii could be a model for other areas of the province, noting the use of two employed midwives on the Islands as something that has been deemed to be quite a success.

She also outlined some thoughts on the theme of improving recruitment and retention of General Practitioners in rural areas, asking Minister Lake what steps are being taken to define the role of the rural physician.

The Health Minister noted that an important part of the process is to make sure that there are other services available to support rural physicians, including the ability to transfer patients out quickly if required. He observed the success of the tele-health process in the province and how it provides guidance and assistance to rural physicians across the province.

You can review the full transcript of the session from the Legislature minutes here.

The back and forth on the issues and concerns starts at the 14:40 mark and continue through to the 16:30 point.

The video of the full debate through Monday afternoon can be found from the Chamber Video on Legislature Video Archive for Monday's session.

For more items related to the work of the North Coast MLA at the Legislature see our archive page here.

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