Leaked Plan Proposes Severe Cuts To Surgeries Across Metro Vancouver

VANCOUVER – According to a leaked Vancouver Coastal Health Authority planning document, patients needing neurosurgery, treatment for vascular diseases and other disorders will suffer as the health authority prepares to cut over 6,000 surgeries under the B.C. Liberals’ post-election plan for health care, New Democrats said today.

“This is the latest evidence illustrating the price people in Metro Vancouver and Adrian Dixacross B.C. will pay because the B.C. Liberals misrepresented their plans for health care in a bid to get re-elected,” said Adrian Dix , New Democrat health critic. “This will result in thousands of patients suffering longer in pain and undermine the long-term capacity of public health care.”

The proposal obtained by the New Democrats, “Proposed VCH Surgical Reductions – Impact and Mitigation Executive Summary”, shows the health authority, forced to make clinical care cuts by Health Minister Kevin Falcon, is looking to close nearly a quarter of its operating rooms starting in September and to cut 6,250 surgeries, including 24 per cent of cases scheduled from September to March and 10 per cent of all medically-necessary elective procedures this fiscal year.

The plan proposes cutbacks to neurosurgery, ophthalmology, vascular surgery, and 11 other specialized areas. Further reductions in surgeries are scheduled during the Olympics, when VCH plans to close approximately a third of its operating rooms.

Two weeks ago, the New Democrats released a Fraser Health Authority draft communications plan listing proposed clinical care cuts. It has since been confirmed that the vast majority of the cutbacks are going ahead including a ten per cent cut in elective surgeries.

Dix noted that, like the measures in the FHA documents, the severe cuts VCHA is contemplating are a direct consequence of the B.C. Liberals’ manipulation of the health authority’s budget process.

“When New Democrats raised concerns that the Campbell government had left Vancouver Coastal facing a shortfall that would mean cuts to clinical care, former Health Minister George Abbott accused of us fear mongering. Meanwhile, to cover up information showing how, if re-elected, they would reduce public health care, the B.C. Liberals ordered the health authority to delay submitting its budget until after the election,” said Dix.

“By making the health authority wait four months into the fiscal year, the government has amplified the cutbacks. The proposal reflects this: cuts to surgeries start in September and are higher than originally anticipated, increasing to 5,800 from the previous prediction of 3,700.”Campbell

Under the plan, VCHA would lose 6,250 surgeries, including the 450 surgeries being cancelled during the Olympics. The authority is also considering reducing joint replacements, cataract surgery, coronary bypass and other areas to maximize cost savings.

Dix said these drastic reductions in essential surgeries are further proof of the B.C. Liberals’ managerial incompetence.

“Health Minister Kevin Falcon talks about the need for the health care system to be more cost effective, but forcing the VCHA to make deep cuts to prevent a deficit with eight months remaining in the fiscal year increases costs in the long run,” said Dix, who noted that these cuts would waste previous investments:

  • Forcing the health authority to cancel scheduled surgeries could cause cases to become more acute, which carry a greater human and financial cost.  Currently, approximately one quarter of VCHA’s patients wait longer than the prescribed benchmark, but according to the planning document, cutbacks could increase this to upwards of 40 per cent.
  • After investing in staff recruitment to address a looming skills shortage, the health authority is considering spending close to $2 million to lay off skilled professionals under Falcon’s directions. Closing operating rooms means hospitals will lose skilled surgeons, nurses and other health professionals that VCHA spent considerable effort to attract.

Carole James and the New Democrats are encouraging local communities to help them in the fight to protect health care in B.C.

“This is not the B.C. Liberals’ health care system, it is the public’s health care system. There is no chance that the Liberals would have been re-elected if the public knew of their plans for health care,” said Dix. “The B.C. Liberals were not given a mandate to unilaterally change the definition and scope of public health care, especially during a time when people need these services even more.”