Jagmeet Singh says he has heard many concerns about the state of the health care system in the mid-Vancouver Island region.
The federal NDP leader and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns were in Qualicum Beach Tuesday (Jan. 24) for a roundtable meeting of experts on seniors health care. Johns said the roundtable included health professionals, as well as people with lived experience in the health-care system.
Singh spoke with residents who have been waiting for years to find a family doctor, including one person who had to change her family doctor several times in a few years because of retirements and people moving.
“She has been really struggling with that lack of continuity of care,” Singh said.
Long emergency room waits, a shortage of nurses and health-care facilities being forced to close temporarily were also among the concerns.
Singh said there should be a focus on hiring more health-care workers, bringing back people who left because of bad work conditions and insufficient pay and retaining the ones we have.
“A lot of those workers are burnt out because they can’t take time off, there’s mandatory overtime and it’s just been a really grueling time,” he said.
Singh added there is a pool of internationally-trained health-care workers who are not able to practice in Canada. He suggested cooperation with provincial governments and provincial licensing bodies to streamline the process and make it easier to have those qualifications recognized.
“It’s something that’s been ignored and we are suffering the consequences of it,” he said.
As Canada ages demographically, the health-care system will need to find solutions, including taking measures to allow seniors to age in their homes and ensure long-term care facilities have enough staff, Singh said.
Johns said he and Singh heard “loud and clear” from the experts that there is a “significant need” for retention, recruitment and support of health-care workers, including more supports for students who are studying in Canada to become doctors and nurses.
“Good care comes when hospitals and long-term care homes are properly staffed,” said Johns. “The most important way to improve health care is more health-care workers.”
Other provinces have seen a shift to for-profit health care, something Johns called a “dangerous” precedent that will take away needed workers. He promised that the federal NDP will fight back against the privatization of health care in Canada.
“We heard that the biggest problem is there aren’t enough nurses and doctors, so bringing in for-profit health care will basically cannibalize the public health care system,” Johns said. “It will take away scarce health-care workers and make staff shortages much worse across the country.”
Singh and Johns finished their visit in Qualicum Beach on Tuesday by meeting with students from Fridays for the Future, a group that has been protesting outside of Qualicum Beach town hall every Friday to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on youth.
“Young people often aren’t heard,” said Johns. “They’re ignored, despite the fact that we as leaders are making decisions that impact their future.”