Victoria MP Laurel Collins took the issue of family doctor shortages to the House of Commons on Monday (Feb. 7), calling on the federal government to increase health care funding.
The issue has been top of mind for her for a while, Collins told the House, noting she was pushed to speak up during question period after three Greater Victoria walk-in clinics announced their imminent closures.
“Challenges finding a family doctor are not new,” she said. “But two years into the pandemic, critical staffing shortages and burnout have only gotten worse. The federal government has failed patients who need primary care, they failed exhausted healthcare workers – because they failed to reverse the chronic underfunding of our health care system.”
By mid-April the Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal, Colwood Medical Treatment Centre and James Bay Medical Treatment Centre will no longer be accepting walk-in patients. Eagle Creek’s doctors are leaving to work remotely out of the U.S., while the Colwood and James Bay clinics have cited general doctor shortages.
Professional association Doctors of B.C. estimates there are already 100,000 Greater Victoria residents without a family doctor.
Collins told Black Press Media the federal government’s health-care transfers aren’t keeping up with provincial costs.
In the 2021 federal budget, the Liberals forecast $43.1 billion in transfers for the year. Its five-year plan schedules three per cent annual growth rates for the transfers, leading up to $51.7 billion by 2026. Canada’s premiers have unanimously said it still isn’t enough to keep up with their estimated yearly cost increases of five per cent.
Asked to respond to criticism the B.C. NDP isn’t doing enough to address doctor shortages in her province, Collins said all levels of government need to be working on the issue. She didn’t respond to a question regarding the province’s much-criticized fee-for-service system, but said the federal NDP continues to push for more health care coverage, such as universal pharmaceutical care, and to ensure health care remains public.
House leader Mark Holland didn’t answer Collins’ question Monday and didn’t commit to increasing health-care transfers.
Collins said she continues to hear from Victoria residents impacted by the family doctor shortage and will continue to push for more funding.
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