NDP Health Critic Mike Farnworth says salaried doctor positions rather than fee-for-service arrangements could be better for rural town like Princeton. He spoke to a packed crowd at the Riverside Centre on June 21.

Princeton needs salaried doctor position: NDP health critic

Princeton held a packed public forum on health care, attended by NDP Health Critic Mike Farnworth and Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali.

Offering salaried positions instead of fee-for-service pay would be a major way to attract doctors to Princeton, said NDP Health Critic Mike Farnworth at a packed public forum at the Riverside Centre on June 21.

“Fee-for-service is outdated. We need salaried positions for many rural towns in B.C.,” Farnworth said at the forum, with Interior Health representative Andrew Neuner, Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, Acting Mayor Jason Earle and Area H director Brad Hope.

Salaried positions can be created in certain cases where fee-for-service arrangements may not guarantee doctors the financial support or stability to provide care.

Providing a salary could be an answer to health care problems in Princeton, where there are enough doctors to cover the population but not enough to run the emergency department 24-7, Farnworth said.

A concern over not getting enough patients to make a living has been cited as one of the major reasons Princeton hasn’t been able to find a new doctor.   Rural areas in B.C. like Princeton should not be run the same as large cities, Farnworth said.

Alternatives to fee-for-service arrangements, where doctors are paid per patient they see, are becoming more popular, according to Ministry of Health.

Farnworth said the long stretch of highway between Hope and Princeton is an unnerving example of the importance of having a 24-7 emergency room at Princeton Hospital.

The emergency department has been closed from midnight to 8 a.m. Monday to Thursday since May. It was on LLTO status during grad weekend June 22 to 24 from midnight to 8 a.m. During LLTO (life, limb, threatened organ) statuses only the most serious cases will be seen by a doctor on call.

Farnworth narrowly missed a head-on collision with a distracted driver while travelling through Manning Park.

“It definitely struck home. If there was a head-on accident right there, what’s going to happen? How long is it going to take the ambulance to get there? Is there an emergency room for me to go to?”

Lali said the problem with B.C.’s health authorities is that they are set up as a corporate model, but should be run as a service.

“Corporations run to make profit. The delivery of public services – whether education or health care – are run not to make a profit, but to deliver to the services,” he said.

Princeton is having a difficult time finding a new doctor because services were pulled out of the hospital, meaning doctors couldn’t practice many of their skills in town, Lali said. “It’s like the chicken-and-egg scenario. You start with level of resources provided to the community. When you pull those out, health care professionals will not come.”

Why no delivery?

Delivering babies is not done at hospitals that aren’t within half an hour of an operating room in case a Caesarean section has to be performed, said Neuner.

He said doctors without operating rooms are very reluctant to deliver babies in case something goes wrong with the delivery.  The number of babies born in Princeton – there were seven born in 2001 – wasn’t enough to keep the maternity ward open, Neuner said.

“To ensure the safety of the moms and their babies, we’re had to consolidate some of the obstetrical services in certain communities over the last few years,” he said.

 

Optimistic for a solution

A meeting is being planned between Minister of Health Michael de Jong and Princeton town council, the RDOS, industry and local First Nation bands, said Acting Mayor Jason Earle.

“I have personally communicated with Minister de Jong and he assured me the ministry has no intention of closing down the Princeton Hospital.

“Representatives from the valley are confident that Minister de Jong does share the concerns about safety of the constituents of the Similkameen Valley and the people that travel the highways of this beautiful part of the province.”