Should the province do more to keep emergency rooms open 24-7 across B.C.? – Poll

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom, whose north Island town has been hit by revolving weekend emergency-room closings, applauded fellow mayors Wednesday for passing a motion calling on the province to take urgent steps to keep ERs open 24 hours a day across B.C.

The resolution at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Whistler also calls on the province to increase funding and training opportunities for health-care professionals to “ensure appropriate and necessary” levels of care.

“All we can do is advocate, but it will help knowing the Union of B.C. Municipalities will be at the table,” said Wickstrom.

Municipal officials representing almost 200 local governments are gathered at the annual conference of the UBCM at TheTimes Conference Centre this week. The convention wraps up Friday with an address from Premier John Horgan.

One of the most anticipated events of the week was a panel discussion featuring Health Minister Adrian Dix entitled Re-envisioning Health Care, but some who attended felt the vision was the same one they’ve heard in recent years.

Both urban and rural communities are facing health-care pressures ranging from revolving emergency-room closings to shortages of doctors, nurses, and emergency dispatchers and call takers — all amid two public health emergencies: the pandemic and drug-overdose crisis.

Dix told the mayors that the province has added 38,000 health-care workers. The Health Ministry said Wednesday more surgeries were performed the week of Aug. 7-13 than in the same week in 2019 — 6,365, up 356 — and that the number of MRI exams was 69 per cent higher in the last fiscal year than in 2016-17.

Ambulance-call volumes have jumped significantly during the pandemic. In 2021-2022, there were 2,232 “purple” or highest-priority calls for an ambulance in the Island Health region, up from 1,793 in 2019-2020.

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