British Columbians Pay the Price for Campbell Misrepresenting Plans for Health Care

VANCOUVER – The Campbell government has confirmed that it misled the voters in the May election about health care issues, and the result will be deep cuts to critical health services including surgery, diagnostics and community care, says New Democrat health critic Adrian Dix.

“It is now clear that Gordon Campbell misrepresented his plans for health care to British Columbians. Nearly two months after the vote, the Campbell government is announcing the health authorities face a $360 million shortfall and cuts in patient services. In March, the NDP predicted that the regional health authorities were facing significant shortfalls, and that cuts to important clinical programs would result if Campbell was re-elected,” said Dix.  “Campbell and his team explicitly denied this at every turn during the pre-election and writ period.” – Adrian Dix

In letters sent this week, Health Minister Kevin Falcon directed health authorities to reduce $360 million in expenditures through various measures, including cutting clinical programs.

“There is ample evidence showing this was Gordon Campbell’s real plan for health care and that he denied it to ensure his political well being. Would Campbell been reelected as Premier if the voters knew he planned to increase wait times for medically necessary surgery?” Dix asked.

The Campbell government’s interference in the health authorities’ budget process in its bid to get re-elected will increase the severity of the cuts. “It made the situation worse by ordering the health authorities to delay their budgets until after the election. Close to four months into the fiscal year, the authorities now face a larger shortfall of $360 million, meaning they will have to make even deeper cuts to services,” noted Dix.

He added “the budget crisis they have created reflects their political cynicism and management incompetence. The Campbell government established the health authorities. It appoints their boards, set their budgets and oversees their decisions.”

“While the Premier will not pay the political price for having misled the voters, patients will pay a big price. As a direct result of Campbell’s election tactics, they will be forced to wait in pain longer due to cuts in medically necessary care. The health authorities across B.C. will be cancelling surgeries and diagnostic tests,” noted Sue Hammell, NDP Deputy Health Critic and MLA for Surrey Green Timbers.

“The Fraser Health Authority faces the largest shortfall – $160 million in the last eight months of the 2009-10 fiscal. It is proposing canceling medically necessary surgeries, reducing MRIs at individual hospitals, closing acute care beds and cutting seniors’ care. The FHA has already announced 2000 less surgeries during the four weeks around the Olympic Games, a sad and unnecessary move. As a result, people will be turning even more to emergency rooms for help, and many of them are slated to be downgraded, like the Mission ER,” added Dix.

“Gordon Campbell promised to protect public health care, not to weaken it.  British Columbians deserve a government committed to preserving a strong responsive public health care system,” concluded Dix.