– Editorial – What is happening in rural Canada is the ‘canary in the coal mine’
Original Published September 19, 2022
Small town mayors in British Columbia hope to join hands. They want to develop solutions and draw attention to what they are calling the ‘health care crisis’ in their communities.
Among these communities are Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, Clearwater in the North Thompson River valley, and Fort St. John in the northeast of the province.
The mayors and politicians are meeting at their provincial organization, the Union of BC Municipalities. Already there are a dozen proposed resolutions from individual rural communities. Among them are 24/7 access to emergency rooms, the toxic drug crisis, and changes to deal with ambulance issues.
Plus, the lack of family doctors or specialists, and overall access to health care in small communities.
Tellingly, as reported in Canada’s National Observer newspaper, “most are similar or identical to long-standing and repeated calls for rural health-care improvements made over the past decade.”
Closer to home, Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton is directed by her council to lead the city’s efforts in medical retention and attraction. Clayton says she will be “reaching out to surrounding municipalities, the County of Grande Prairie, M.D. of Greenview (centered east of Grande Prairie and including a huge swath south and west of Valleyview) and the Town of Sexsmith.
Clayton says she hears of health care professionals leaving the region and the new billion dollar plus Grande Prairie Regional Hospital being “underutilized.”
One Grande Prairie city councillor is reported in the Beaverlodge Town & Country News. “Last week I talked with a physician that recently left, and at the beginning of our meeting he had mentioned that 15 specialists had left Grande Prairie in the previous 10 months,” said councillor Grant Berg.
The fact is, small newspapers across Canada are reporting their own local emergency room closings, family doctor and physician shortages. It is nothing new. It isn’t even new this is suddenly a problem. It’s been on the radar and growing for at least the past 15 years, probably longer.
It is interesting in Canada, health care is a provincial responsibility, not federal. Yet, every province and territory has much the same problems. Except for pockets like Jasper – Hinton Alberta which has doctors coming out of its back pockets, 30 compared to a similar catchment population in Peace River with 14 docs. Or Canmore, 56!
It has to be said, postage stamp pricing in which treatment or a doctor visit in Canmore earns the same as High Prairie has drawbacks. But we are speaking off the cuff. A big problem here is, if anybody is talking behind closed doors, they don’t or can’t share it with the masses. Every time a new politician comes in, he or she starts from scratch. So, all those blips on the health radar the past years? Still there. Getting bigger all the time.
But the really big blips still aren’t waking up lacklustre top politicians, butt-covering bureaucrats and big city media. Yet!