Leaders discuss rural health care at UBCM in Whistler
The following is a press release issued by the B.C. government:
Mayors from throughout B.C. discussed the future of rural health care yesterday in discussions with Health Minister Terry Lake and health authority representatives at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Whistler.
“We know there are challenges that need to be addressed in rural communities and part of our current strategic direction makes it very clear that we need a broad strategy for rural care that meets the needs of all British Columbians,” said Lake. “By consulting with mayors and health professionals, First Nations and other stakeholders, we will be able to develop a strategy that meets the long-term future needs of those outside of urban centres.”
The Improving Health for Remote and Rural Communities forum with the mayors is an opportunity to provide input on access to health care for rural, remote and First Nations communities.
“Through discussions with community leaders, we are gaining a solid understanding of the priorities in our communities,” said Cathy Ulrich, Northern Health CEO and president. “It is important to us to be a key partner in developing the vision and strategy for rural health services.”
A key component of finalizing the Rural Health Strategy will be to ensure that we have a framework to inform future planning decisions by looking at the short and long-term needs of communities and taking a fresh look at existing supports – what is working, what needs to be changed, and what else may be required. The Rural Health Strategy will have a clear focus, including measurable outcomes.
Residents from rural communities throughout the province have voiced their concern over access to physicians, technicians and other health professionals. This is a challenge not unique to B.C., but felt across the country and in communities all around the globe.
B.C. will look to build on significant investments already made to address the challenges rural communities face. For example, government spends about $100 million a year on incentives to attract physicians who will stay in rural B.C. Since 2001, government has also invested more than $200 million on strategies to promote education, recruitment and retention of nurses in rural communities.
The province has invested significantly in bringing more nurse practitioners into rural and remote communities. The Ministry of Health, in partnership with Northern Health, recently announced funding for three new nurse practitioners in their Fort St. John clinic.
British Columbians want access to health care when and where they need it most – at home, in their communities. Next steps in finalizing the Rural Health Strategy include wrapping up a series of planned consultations with key stakeholders, including health professionals and UBCM members.