Commitments for increased federal health-care transfers to provinces are well and good, but further discussion about the specific health-care service improvements needed on the central and north Island would be welcomed, says RDN director. (File photo)

Commitments for increased federal health-care transfers to provinces are well and good, but further discussion about the specific health-care service improvements needed on the central and north Island would be welcomed, says RDN director. (File photo)

OPINION: Disparity of health-care services creates two tiers

RDN chairperson says province and feds need to commit to NRGH health-care service improvements

BY TYLER BROWN

The reality is that on Vancouver Island we have two-tier health-care services and it is not acceptable.

The population living south of the Malahat have access to significantly more health-care services than those living north of the Malahat. This issue is top of mind this federal election as MP candidates and political parties discuss increasing federal transfers to the provinces for health-care improvements.

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, built-in 1963, is home to the busiest emergency room on Vancouver Island. The patient tower is consistently over capacity in terms of available beds and crucial health programs such as cardiac and cancer services are not available to the degree our population deserves. The statistics in which those living north of the Malahat have been left behind with regard to hospital resources are staggering and the health needs of our communities have been known for multiple decades, suggesting that successive provincial governments find it acceptable that such an inequity exists.

It is important to note that approximately 450,000 people live on either side of Malahat. Further, the population north of the Malahat is older and seeing more population growth.

There is no question that we deserve significant investment to address the long-overdue health-care inequity that exists for those living north of the Malahat on Vancouver Island. The current situation is unfair to our citizens and places an unnecessary burden on doctors, nurses and health-care workers as they work tirelessly, despite inadequate resources, to keep us healthy and care for our community.

To begin to address the health-care inequity that exists on Vancouver Island, we need an immediate commitment of timelines and budget for the following at NRGH:

A new patient tower/treatment centre, cardiac services/catheterization lab, and expanded cancer services in a cancer centre.

So while I welcome federal campaign commitments for increased health-care transfers to the province, I also welcome a broader conversation among our provincial and federal governments about the two tiers of health care that exist on Vancouver Island and how we can begin to address this inequity by committing to budgets and timelines for long-overdue improvements at NRGH.

Tyler Brown is chairperson of the Regional District of Nanaimo and a City of Nanaimo councillor. He can be reached at tyler.brown@nanaimo.ca.

Opinion