A government select committee is looking for public input on rural health care issues.

A government select committee is looking for public input on rural health care issues.

Public input sought on rural health care

A Select Standing Committee on Health is seeking public input, particularly regarding rural health and health care.

The provincial government has announced that the all-party Select Standing Committee on Health has launched a new public consultation on the sustainability and quality of B.C.’s health care system, and is seeking input from individuals and groups.

“We’re looking for best practices overall,” says MLA Linda Larson (Boundary-Similkameen), chair of the committee. One of the main points her committee is focusing on is improving health, and health care services, in rural B.C., particularly the challenge of recruiting and retaining health care professionals.

Larson notes that while much of the focus is on attracting doctors, that is not the whole picture.

“It’s not just all about the doctors; it’s about the entire team of medical professionals. Primary and community care is a team effort, partially with people—such as nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, x-ray technicians—and partially with technology, such as tele-health, which cuts down on travelling. There are some good programs, but we need to share.”

She encourages people and groups to make submissions to the committee—in writing, by audio or video, or at one of the public hearings being held in the province. A public hearing in Kamloops will be held on July 6.

“We’d love to hear about some things happening that brought good results, things that weren’t done under the old model. There are ways some communities have figured out that they might like to share, so that wherever this is possible we could be doing this in other communities.”

Larson says the committee is looking at several options to encourage health care professionals to relocate to rural areas, such as helping pay off their student loans if they commit to five years in a rural community.

The committee would also like to see a rural medicine section put into medical training, so that students can see what it means to be the only medical person in a community, without the backups available in a larger centre.

“The University of Northern B.C. takes medical students out to rural communities to show them what it’s like. They spend one to two weeks in rural areas, meeting local people and the local health community, and are encouraged to come back and practice in rural areas.”

Another area of focus for the committee is creating a cost-effective system of primary and community care built around interdisciplinary teams. “If we keep people healthier to start, and catch things soon enough, people won’t have to make a trip to a major centre.”

Submissions from the public can be made until July 29, with Larson noting that written submissions are just as important as those made in person at hearings.

To learn more about the committee or how to participate in the consultation, visit the committee’s website at https://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/health.

All submissions will be included in the committee’s final report.

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