I am committed to ensuring a balanced budget and controlling government spending so British Columbians can continue to have this strong health care system.
The planned expenditures on healthcare this year represent 42% of the operating budget for the entire province. Pharmacare accounts for $1.3 billion, the Medical Services Plan $4.3 billion and Health services $12 billion.
These costs create significant challenges for the government to be able to sustain the system we’ve come to appreciate. I believe it is essential to become as innovative and efficient in delivering health services so the increasing costs do not begin to eclipse the many other services the government provides to British Columbians. Let’s look at some of the challenges we’re facing.
The senior population in BC is one of the fastest growing in Canada and represents 15% of the total population (in Vancouver-False Creek it is 9%). The demand and therefore cost of health care is structurally going to increase. In fact, of the 15% that is the senior population, this group accounts for a third of physician services, almost 50% of acute care services and PharmaCare expenditures, and 74% of home and community care services.
Almost 40% of the BC population suffers from chronic diseases. These include long term conditions like heart disease, diabetes, depression, asthma and arthritis. Chronic conditions represent a huge portion of our health expenditures and are expected to increase as our population ages. In some situations, they are diseases whose effects can be prevented or mitigated with adjustments to one’s lifestyle, such as reducing alcohol or tobacco consumption, increasing physical activity, and improved diet and nutrition.
Advances in medical science have been significant over the past decade. Improved technology in diagnostics, less invasive surgeries, and drug treatments have made health care far more advanced and effective, but also more expensive. The advent of these technologies has vastly increased the demand for diagnostics like MRI’s and surgeries like joint replacements.
Another, but by no means final challenge is the necessity to ensure that our health facilities and infrastructure are not only maintained but have the capacity to accept the rapidly changing technological advancements as well as the ever increasing patients’ demands. The recently announced rebuilding of St Paul’s Hospital is an example of investments that are required.
There are a number of approaches that are important in managing these challenges.
It is important to provide preventative education and support to those that are most likely to require prolonged health care.
Predicting the future demands on the health system seems fairly straightforward, so tailoring the health needs of patients that are clearly going to be getting older and in higher numbers is essential. I believe patients need targeted treatment plans to fit their health profile.
In Vancouver- False Creek we are blessed with close access to several multi-functional hospitals such at St Paul’s, VGH, Children’s, and Women’s. This isn’t the case through the entire province. Community based health care is very valuable, but access to facilities for more advanced situations is critical.
Finally, as stewards of the $19 billion spent on health care, it is essential for the government to manage the system in a financially prudent manner that ensures the best possible outcomes for patients, in an environment that is truly complex, and with a horizon with increasing demands.