Horgan weighs in on B.C. health care crisis, lack of affordable housing

B.C. Premier John Horgan acknowledged Wednesday that the province's health care system is in crisis. "It is dire," he said during an interview.

There are 100,000 patients in Greater Victoria and one million patients across B.C. without a family doctor, according to the group Doctors of BC, and the wait times at Victoria’s walk-in clinics are longer than anywhere else in Canada.

By comparison, in Alberta, more than 600 family doctors are currently taking new patients. The premier admits major changes are needed in B.C. to ensure doctors trained to practise family medicine actually continue to work as family doctors.

When asked if his government is willing to consider overhauling the system or making drastic changes, Horgan said: “Absolutely, [Health] Minister [Adrian] Dix is looking at all options available to us.”

Horgan said he agrees with many GPs who say that the current payment model in the province – where family doctors get paid per visit but are responsible for all their costs including staff salaries, equipment and leasing their space – is outdated

“We're grappling with the fee-for-service model, which is archaic,” Horgan said. “Doctors don’t like it, governments don’t like it.”

Horgan maintains more funding from Ottawa for health care is key to making changes to the system, especially with B.C.’s booming population.

“The challenge is we need more people, and we need more cash to make that happen,” he said.

In the short term, he says the province, in collaboration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., should get foreign doctors working sooner.

“That’s one of the areas where other parts of the country have been more successful than we have in B.C.”

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

A lack of affordable housing is another crisis gripping Vancouver Island..

Average sale prices for a detached home in Greater Victoria soared to $1.4 million in April, up from the $860,000 average sale price five years ago when Horgan took office.

He says more housing supply is the solution and points to Langford, B.C., in his home riding, where the mayor and council have famously cut red tape for zoning and permits faster than communities like Victoria.

“That's been the result of a council that's focused on building the homes that people can live in,” he said.

He doesn't rule out running for a third term as premier, as he’s eying the next provincial election in 2024.

“I never anticipated that I would be where I am today,” said Horgan. “No one's more surprised than me and my Grade 8 teachers at Reynolds High School, yet here I am."

And down the road, a rumoured post as Canada's ambassador to Ireland was well received.

“That’s not a bad idea,” he said with a smile. “I think I could pull that off. Next time I talk to the prime minister I’ll see what he has to say about that.”

For now though, there are plenty of pressing problems much closer to home.