Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Health Minister fires back at Gary Coons

"I know Mr. Coons has been beaking-off in respect of this matter."
George Abbott, BC's Minister of Health taking exception to recent comments from the MLA for the North Coast.

The health care situation in Stewart finally produced some comments from the BC Liberals this week, but little in the way of a reolution, as the BC Health Minister George Abbott fired back at Gary Coons over his recent questions about health care in rural areas.

With Stewart's hospital facing a crisis situation in providing health care these days, Abbott claims that his Ministry is doing much work to "mitigate" the situation, though his words are probably cold comfort for the folks of Stewart, who must be wondering if there is much of a future for health care in their community.

Instead of offering up solutions for the troubles of Stewart, Abbott instead trotted out a familiar refrain from the Liberals when cornered, blaming the NDP of the nineties for all the troubles, forgetting we guess that his party has been in charge of the province since June of 2001, seven years ago, regardless of what calendar one might use.

More than enough time one would hope to provide solutions for long running health care challenges.

The Wednesday Daily News outlined the Ministers response to the MLA's challenges, heavy on rhetoric as they are, but little in detail as far as solutions.

Health Minister hits back at MLA
George Abbott says Gary Coons' hospital criticsim unfounded
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Pages one and three

B.C. Minister of Health George Abbott responded to criticism that his ministry is out of touch with rural communities by saying that he indeed is aware of the lack of health service in Stewart.
Abbott was responding to comments made by North Coast MLA Gary Coons, who said that no economic good could come from a region that has little in the way of health services.

"We are well aware of the situation in Stewart and much work is ongoing through the Northern Health authority and elsewhere to try and mitigate that situation," said Abbott on Monday.

Abbott claimed one of the ways the situation in both Stewart and the whole northern sector of the province can be eased is to hire out-of-province workers, be they from Canada or outside the national border.

"One of the biggest challenges we have as a Ministry of Health is the number of physicians and nurses that are available and it is often in some of our most remote corners that we are particularly challenged on the availability of those health professionals," said Abbott.

It was revealed last week that Stewart is without full-time doctors but still has two part-time doctors working in the district.

This came after two full-time doctors resigned, citing infrastructural frustration.
Up until this summer, Stewart had a 24-hour hospital with three in-patient beds a full-time nursing staff.

During the last few months those numbers have dwindled to two full-time nurses, sporadic laboratory and x-ray coverage and the elimination of the three beds.

Abbott claimed that if the NDP wanted to be pointing fingers in faces, they should start with themselves.

"I know Mr. Coons has been beaking-off in respect of this matter. It is unfortunate that he does so, given that the route of these problems we currently have rests with the declining numbers of nursing graduates in the 1990s and the absence of investment in additional physician training," said Abbott.

Health service concern is not a new issue in the Northern half of the province. Many elections have been fought over how to provide better health care for the region.

In its Health Services Plan for 2007-2008, Northern Health reported that people living in the North had "significantly poorer health" than those in the rest of the province.

The report also noted that there are 20 per cent more deaths in the Northern Health population annually than would occur if residents of the region enjoyed the average health of British Columbians.

This difference in health status combined with the lack of scale for some non-hospital services in northern communities translates into an estimated requirement for patient hospital care that is 20 per cent higher than the provincial average.

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