Provincial health spending as a share of our economy has been relatively steady in recent years, and is projected to fall from 7.8 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 7.4 per cent in 2019 according to the government’s September budget update.
If, however, we want to tackle the opioid crisis, enhance seniors care, reduce surgical wait times and decrease drug costs, government leadership and investment are needed.
The September budget update included a three-year commitment to fight the opioid emergency and fund the establishment of a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, both of which are welcome and urgently needed. Budget 2018 must provide the funding to bring programs and supports online as rapidly as possible.
If we want to tackle the opioid crisis, enhance seniors care, reduce surgical wait times and decrease drug costs, government leadership and investment are needed.
Earlier this year the previous government, after failing to meet its own minimum staffing guidelines in more than 90% of seniors’ residential care facilities, promised $500 million to begin meeting those minimums. The new government must move quickly to turn this promise into reality and aim to accelerate the original four-year timeline so that staffing levels at least match the minimum standards.
The substantial cuts to BC’s home and residential care system by the previous government forced seniors to rely more heavily on emergency room visits and increased the need for inpatient hospital beds. Those pressures, in turn, lead to overcrowded hospitals and longer wait times for surgeries, demonstrating the necessity of following through on reinvestment in residential care as well as for home support services like home nursing and help with cooking and bathing.
Other key measures to reduce surgical wait times include actively managing wait lists and adopting best practices in surgical procedures and patient care like those already developed by local surgical teams here in BC and by public health systems in other provinces and countries.
We also recommend that Budget 2018 include measures to improve patient care by developing interdisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals who work closely together. These could include physicians working with dieticians, physiotherapists and nurse practitioners. This dovetails with both commitments in the government’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green Party as well as with their election commitment to invest in new urgent care centres around the province.
We recommend developing a universal pharmacare program, which a growing body of evidence demonstrates would reduce drug costs dramatically.
Budget 2018 should also fast-track the development of a drugs program to increase access to needed medicines and reduce costs. We recommend making this the first phase in developing a universal pharmacare program, which a growing body of evidence demonstrates would reduce drug costs dramatically.
Finally, for capital expenditures—including hospitals, residential care facilities and urgent care centres—Budget 2018 should end the use of wasteful Public Private Partnerships (P3s). The P3 model has been repeatedly shown to increase costs while unnecessarily privatizing public goods and frequently diminishing the quality of services including in the health sector. As a matter of good public policy, the infrastructure of our health care system should be owned collectively by British Columbians.
Each of these recommended policies has the dual benefit of increasing quality of care and helping contain health care costs. In contrast, failing to make proper long-term investments in the public universal health system would mean that British Columbians will spend more to get less.