B.C. NDP announces proposal to expand health services for seniors, rural areas

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      The B.C. New Democrats have announced their plans for health care if elected next month, including measures to expand homecare for seniors, increase access to mental-health services, boost acute care in rural areas, and double funding to the Therapeutics Initiative.

      NDP Leader Adrian Dix, who described the proposal as focusing on “necessary” rather than big-ticket items, made the announcement today (April 23) at the South Granville Seniors Centre, located in B.C. Liberal Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid’s riding of Vancouver-Fairview.

      “The significant part of this health-care plan is an investment in homecare and home support—programs that have been significantly cut over the last 10 years,” Dix told reporters. “These programs are important for seniors because they give seniors choices in terms of where they want to go.”

      The party’s proposal includes plans to expand home support and community care for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with chronic conditions, and establish an independent seniors’ representative position. Dix said $70 million would be invested over three years on the measures, in addition to $35 million to increase levels of basic service in residential-care facilities.

      The NDP leader also pledged to double the funding for the Therapeutics Initiative. Provincial support for the UBC-based program has been eliminated, according to the chair of the watchdog's education group.

      “Everyone understands that the world-renowned Therapeutics Initiative, which has been respected, and has saved lives and saved money for our health-care system for now 20 years, has been under consistent attack over the last 10 years,” Dix told reporters.

      “The Therapeutics Initiative deserves our support, and it will have it. In our plan we will double support for the Therapeutics Initiative from its previous base, to $2 million a year, to ensure that those drug reviews that are done in British Columbia, are done independently, without conflict of interest, and defend the public and the patient first.”

      Dix said the party also intends to address what children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond called a patchwork system of supports for children with mental-health issues. The NDP platform includes $35 million for enhanced treatment and outreach services for children and youth.

      As part of the NDP’s proposal for health care in rural areas, the party is pledging $45 million to expand acute care and emergency services in rural hospitals.

      The health-care platform will cost $240 million over three years, according to the party, starting with $24 million in the first year.

      Today’s event follows a series of B.C. NDP announcements in the ridings of B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers. Dix has been gradually releasing aspects of the party's platform.

      B.C. Premier Christy Clark also held an event focused on health care today at the construction site of the future Comox Valley Hospital on Vancouver Island.

      In a news release, the B.C. Liberals highlighted their platform commitment to double the number of hospice beds in the province by 2020. The party has also announced pledges including creating an additional 500 addictions spaces by 2017.