Increasing Surgical Wait Times Should Not Be An Olympic Sport, Says NDP
VANCOUVER - Patients are paying the price for the B.C. Liberals’ broken promises as the government uses the Olympics as an excuse to cut medically-required surgeries in Metro Vancouver, the New Democrats said today.
“The B.C. Liberals are trying to mislead the public by saying the Winter Olympics ‘slows down’ the need for surgeries. Now, almost 2,500 medically-prescribed procedures – including orthopedic, reconstructive, neurological, and vascular surgeries – are not going to be performed during the next two months because the health authorities have to fend off deficits. As a result, wait times are increasing, patients are at increased risk for complications and pain, investments in operating rooms is being wasted, and overall health costs are set to rise,” said New Democrat health critic Adrian Dix .
Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health, which carry out directives issued by Health Minister Kevin Falcon, are cancelling 2,450 surgeries this February through March. The government has characterized the reduction in operating room procedures as an “Olympic slowdown”.
“To call this a ‘slowdown’ suggests that there is less need for care, which is not the case. The reality is that more and more patients and their families are waiting for clinical care. But despite that fact, the B.C. Liberals are canceling more than a third of medically-necessary surgeries during the last two months of the fiscal year, and using an international sporting event to cover up another round of health care cutbacks,” said Dix.
Last summer, Falcon ordered both VCH and FHA to overcome a combined shortfall of over $250 million by making cuts to clinical programs, among other measures. Operating room time for medically-required procedures has been cancelled, and surgery suites from Vancouver to Coquitlam to Chilliwack have been closed.
“For example, Richmond’s heralded hip and knee orthopedic surgery program is now performing 17 per cent fewer operations, though the number of patients needing joint replacements is not abating.”
Barbara Roberts and Alana Downey, patients whose surgeries have been delayed, joined the New Democrat health critic at a press conference today.
Dix said the B.C. Liberals’ broken promises have been compounded by the fact that they hid their true plan to cut health care until after the election, partway through the fiscal year, therefore increasing wait times and putting patients at risk.
“Health authorities have been left scrambling because the B.C. Liberals hid their plan to cut health care until after election, four months into the fiscal year,” said Dix.
He said the coming fiscal year will bring more challenges, including increased wait lists and wait times due to cancelled surgeries during the Olympics, noting that the health authorities still face shortfalls.
“According to their service plans, both FHA and VCH face projected shortfalls of nearly $200 million for 2010-11. But next year, the B.C. Liberals are not going to be able to try to use a major event to cover up their health care cuts,” said Dix.
Carole James and New Democrats are holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for breaking their word on the HST, and for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education, and other vital services.