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BC Liberal leader in Quesnel

Kevin Falcon made a stop in the community on July 15
BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon (left) with Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes. (Rebecca Dyok photo — Quesnel Observer)

Solving B.C.’s physician shortage is top of mind for BC Liberal and official opposition leader Kevin Falcon who stopped in Quesnel on Friday, July 15.

Falcon was on a tour of the Cariboo and previously visited 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, where he met with First Nations leaders and various groups.

He believes significant changes must be considered to address a deepening crisis in which an estimated one million British Columbians are without a family doctor.

“In Quesnel, you’ve got one of the urgent primary care centres the NDP opened with great fanfare that can’t even be staffed, and that’s a real problem,” Falcon said.

“We’ve seen that right across the province where they’ve been opening these facilities, and they have no staffing. That’s unfortunate, but I think it’s a symptom of a greater problem: our healthcare system is at risk of imploding upon itself.”

Falcon said the first step forward is talking and working directly with family physicians.

The BC Liberals are also calling for a 30-day action program to begin immediately with increasing payments made to physicians through a fee for service, simplifying the billing codes, and reducing the amount of paperwork the province is imposing upon doctors.

Read More: Physician shortage in Quesnel an ongoing issue

In Quesnel, the community is at risk of losing five family physicians before the end of the year.

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared a letter by Dr. Gavin Grapes expressing concern about retaining small groups of specialist/family practice with additional skills in rural sites to the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues.

“They changed the formula for retention, which has put us at a real disadvantage,” Oakes said, noting she had spoken with a family physician who told her they have had less than a week off since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Falcon was B.C’s Minister of Health in 2009 and admitted even then that the system wasn’t perfect.

“But it is nothing like I have seen today,” he said.

“It’s worrisome, and that’s why the 30-day action plan is so critical. This government must understand that they have to deal with this with a sense of urgency because the doctors should not have to be coming to Victoria and protesting in front of the legislature.”

Another big issue of concern for Falcon is crime.

He said he wants to address what he described as a ‘catch and release system’ especially when it comes to prolific offenders.

Read More: Kevin Falcon wins B.C. Liberal leadership race

Falcon added he committed to making significant investments in addiction recovery and treatment programs and for mental health facilities to be available 24/7.

“It’s a challenge, and it always will be, but my goodness, we can’t have a situation where people literally cannot just even get access to a [recovery] bed.”

Oakes noted that BC Liberal Official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Relations, Michael Lee, had spoken earlier with local Indigenous chiefs and elders who have long advocated for increased services and treatment.

In terms of affordability, the BC Liberals, according to Falcon, have asked the NDP government to provide a 90-day relief at the pumps, which could see gas prices drop by a minimum of 10 to 15 cents a litre.

If elected premier, Falcon added the BC Liberals would get more housing supply into an already tight marketplace by introducing legislation to ensure a timely process for getting projects into the system. Transportation and infrastructure projects would also include a component of resiliency to climate change.

After visiting Quesnel, Falcon will head off to Barkerville.

He then plans to go to Prince George and travel to communities along Highway 16, including Vanderhoof, Terrace and Prince Rupert, before continuing to the Peace Region.

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