Seniors population key to health care

NANAIMO – Aging population on Vancouver Island means more pressure on services throughout the region

With 41 cents out of every tax dollar collected by the provincial government dumped into health care, it’s clear what is at the top of the priority list for both election candidates and the people they want to represent.

For the Parksville-Qualicum riding, health care takes on an additional importance because Qualicum Beach has the oldest demographic in Canada while Parksville is No. 4. The riding encompasses those two communities, plus Lantzville and Nanaimo north of Rutherford Road.

NDP candidate Barry Avis, B.C. Conservative candidate David Coupland, and B.C. Liberal candidate Michelle Stilwell will have to be on top of the health care issue if they expect to emerge as the constituency’s MLA on May 14.

“How we’re going to look after health care and how we’re going to provide health care is critical,” said Avis. “A whole new plan also has to be developed for seniors’ care so that we as a party can meet the wishes of seniors who are telling us they want to stay in their homes as long as possible. By staying in their homes they can maintain their social network.”

If elected, Avis said he will begin a discussion with doctors and nurses, Vancouver Island Health Authority and residents to create a facility that will make both health care workers, users and taxpayers happy.

Liberal policy is to continue spending on health care workers and facilities to ensure services meet the growing demand. The party has invested more than $8 billion for new hospitals in Abbotsford, Victoria, Kelowna, Vernon, Surrey and Vancouver, and projects worth an additional $2.3 billion will be built over the next three years.

Stilwell said the B.C. Liberals will continue to spend in that sector, while working toward balancing the provincial budget.

“We’ve more than doubled spending on health care in the 12 years we’ve been the government and it will continue to be something that the Liberal government will focus on,” she said.

An example, she said, is the Oceanside Health Care Centre, scheduled to open this spring.

“We know in our province that the most expensive way to provide health care is through our emergency rooms and we’re changing how we traditionally deliver health care,” said Stilwell. “This health care centre has a collaborative approach and it’s really the way to go. It’s going to be great for the older people in the community with more acute health problems.”

Coupland, a radiologist at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, sees first-hand every day what is working and what is not in the health care system.

“Health care and all social services are important,” he said. “With our aging population we need to reform our public health care system to provide it more efficiently, with patient outcomes, quality access, and cost efficiency as primary focuses.”

Key Conservative health care policies state the province has to do a better job of training and retaining health care professionals, placing physicians in remote communities and improving health facilities while improving transparency in funding and spending.

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