BC Budget 2023 Update

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On Tuesday the province tabled the 2023 budget which includes significant investments in health care. These investments will go a long way in reducing the barriers patients face in accessing primary care and in addressing the burnout and lack of resources that health care workers are facing. The budget is an indication that the government recognizes the challenges in our health care system.

In 2022, the BC Health Coalition presented a submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in the BC Legislature. In our presentation, we recommended that the government consider making critical investments in the following areas for the 2023 budget:

  1. Hold private operators of long-term care homes accountable for the funding they receive and ensure all new capital investments are publicly or not-for-profit operated.
  2. Improve access to publicly funded home support by eliminating current regulated daily rate co-payments and by addressing the staffing crisis with higher wages and guaranteed hours of work.
  3. Address the primary... health care access crisis by investing in Community Health Centres that offer comprehensive, longitudinal team-based primary health care.

The budget tabled this week presents several opportunities, as well as gaps, for public health care including senior’s care, primary care, and mental health and treatment.

Seniors Care

The 2023 Budget includes capital investments in the construction of new long-term care beds in Fort St. James, Colwood, and in Vancouver. While this is great news, the budget leaves much to be desired for home support services. We know that seniors have a preference for aging at home — and there’s an economic case to be made for supporting this: home support saves taxpayers nearly $46,000 a year per person if provided one-hour of daily home support when compared to the cost of funding a bed in a long term care facility. If the government wants to meet the needs of seniors, it is imperative that it allocates funding to home support workers.

Primary Care

The tabled budget provides a boost to core services and staff recruitment initiatives. $1.1 billion will go towards a new family doctor pay model. These investments will give family physicians the flexibility to meet the unique needs of their patients. While the family doctor pay model is an important step in fortifying primary care, family doctors are just one component of the broader system. This physician-first model threatens to leave out allied health care workers who can address the broader needs of patients whether its multicultural health brokers, social workers, dieticians or other health care professionals. Not addressing gaps in funding primary care more broadly may lead to limited improvements to the health care system that don’t address the root causes of the challenges in the health care system.

One opportunity for the government to address gaps in an otherwise narrow strategy to solving the challenges in primary care is by creating funding mechanisms to expand Community Health Centres (CHCs). CHCs present an opportunity to address the primary care crisis by establishing an interdisciplinary team-based delivery model to provide health care that has a focus on both preventative and curative approaches to care. The budget unfortunately doesn’t provide any funding to CHCs but the Coalition will continue to advocate for expanding this model with proven benefits for both care providers that work in CHCs and the communities they serve.

Mental Health and Treatment

The budget also allocates new funding for mental health and addictions treatment. While this announcement is encouraging, several questions arise. First, with regards to the addition of 190 treatment beds over three years, what mechanisms will be in place to ensure funding for beds go to programs that are publicly or non-profit delivered. If funding and beds are allocated to for-profit treatment and recovery centres, questions arise around standards of care and whether that money is used for care or pocketed for profits. In addition, what logistics will be implemented to equip people with navigating the system? For example, providing a publicly accessible database to show what beds are available, full, or at capacity, and where they are located. Finally, will treatment programs be evidence-based and provide statistics to better understand their success?

Treatment programs must be consent based, but beyond that, strategies to address the drug toxicity crisis requires a multi-pronged approach that isn't one size fits all. For example, in addition to treatment programs, strategies like access to safe supply must also be implemented. Tackling the drug toxicity crisis can’t exist in a silo. It needs to be integrated into a broader strategy to systematically address the challenges people face, including access to housing and poverty alleviation.

People living in British Columbia are encountering challenges on many fronts. With increased investments in the area of health care, we are hopeful that the burden of accessing quality care, as well the constraints of working in the health care system, will improve through these investments, further strengthening the public health care system so that it is there when we need it.

BC Health Coalition

British Columbia Health Coalition · 3102 Main St, 302, Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, BC V5T 3G7, Canada
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