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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Two    April 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    Liberals Under Fire as Wait Lists Jump Again

    CPP News Service

    The number of British Columbians waiting for surgery has taken another dramatic jump, NDP Leader Carole James said today. According to the government’s own figures, the number of British Columbians on waitlists has grown to 77,222, or 25% more than in June 2001 when the BC Liberals took power.

    “There is no denying these numbers. The BC Liberals have run out of excuses,” said James. “Under the Campbell government, more British Columbians than ever are languishing on health care wait lists.”

    James said the most dramatic increase is the number of British Columbians waiting for orthopedic surgery, where wait lists have jumped by 66% since June, 2001. Ophthalmological wait lists have increased by more than 16%; ear, nose and throat surgery by more than 15%; and urological surgery by more than 45%.

    “Health care where and when you need it was the promise, but longer wait lists are the reality,” said James. “After almost three years in power, it’s time for the Liberals to admit their health care agenda is failing British Columbians.”

    James said that the Liberals have the wrong priorities for health care. She said the government is wasting millions of patient dollars on TV ads and in exorbitant fees and per diems for its hand-picked health board members who meet infrequently and operate under a cloud of secrecy.

    “We must engage British Columbians in a constructive dialogue about new solutions and approaches to our health care system,” said James. “But the BC Liberals continue to be obsessed with spin, secrecy, and privatization, fostering a climate of conflict and confrontation in our health care system than ignores patient needs.

    “It’s time to open up health care renewal and reform to British Columbians, giving them a say in how we best direct scarce resources. Only then will we be able to improve patient care and bring waitlists down.”

    The government insists the problem is only temporary and eventually the burgeoning waiting lists may start to diminish if its increased funding promises come to pass.

    Liberal Health Minister Colin Hansen admits  facilities are closing, leaving many communities without any health services, and wait lists are getting longer. But he says recent government initiatives will hopefully reduce them.

    “We’re going to put an additional $1 billion into the system,” he said. “Most of this will go to reducing wait lists and improving home care.”

    This is a similar commitment made in March by Finance Minister Gary Collins when he introduced this year’s provincial budget. It provides no increases in health care funding and does not address the mass closures of health facilities across the province.

    But Collins said in two to three years, hoping for better economic performance, a billion-dollar increase would occur.

    But BC Nurses Union President Debra MacPhearson says these are exactly the areas that have been savaged by government cuts, and that longer wait lists are part of the results.

    Her union is promoting the adoption of a patience bill of rights that would entrench into law a requirement of governments to provide guaranteed access within minimal timelines to health services in a publicly funded non-profit health care system.

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