Coastal communities could face reduced health services with ferries cuts

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VICTORIA — Women in the Bella Coola Valley could lose a mammography screening program if reckless Liberal cuts to ferry services on the north and central coast and Haida Gwaii go ahead, say New Democrats.

“This is just another example of the wide ripple effect that these cuts will have – not just on the long-term prosperity of our region and key industries like tourism, but also on the health of the people who live here,” said New Democrat North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice.

Administrators and staff at the Bella Coola General Hospital and medical clinic said in a statement that the mobile screening program that visits Bella Coola each summer will no longer be able to access the community if the cuts go ahead. They believe this could mean that fewer women in these communities will make the necessary trip to receive breast cancer screening.

Rice said it is clear that the Liberal government failed to study what impact these cuts would have on the economy and health of coastal communities prior to announcing them.

“In the area of preventative health care alone, these cuts will have a significant impact. People on the coast rely on ferries to get medical treatment outside their communities, and these service cuts could lead to fewer people getting timely medical help,” said Rice.

“It could also make it harder for people in places like Haida Gwaii, where it is already hard to get fresh produce and milk, to access fresh, healthy food. Add reduced sailings to the inevitable weather-related ferry cancellations that happen during the winter months, and you have a situation in which people are waiting a long time for grocery shelves to get restocked.”

Rice says in the decade since the Liberal government brought in the Coastal Ferry Act, fares have skyrocketed, ridership numbers have decreased, debt at the corporation has ballooned, and the government has failed to curb exorbitant executive bonuses.

“Now the government is proposing service reductions that will hit northern communities hard, cutting the Discovery Coast Passage Route, and slashing nearly a third of sailings from the Port Hardy – Prince Rupert and Skidegate – Prince Rupert routes,” said Rice. “The Liberal government should know that our coastal highways are critical to the health of our communities, and to our provincial economy. What we need now is not irresponsible cuts, but a long-term plan to get B.C. Ferries back on track.”