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Comment: Consider byelections a referendum on health management

NDP took control away from health experts and front-line workers, silenced them, and threw money at lavish mega-projects delivering dismal results.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix speaks during an announcement at Langara College in Vancouver, on Jan. 9, 2023. Pharmacists in British Columbia will have more responsibilities starting June 1 in an effort to improve access for those without a family doctor and ease the stress on an overburdened health-care system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A commentary by an adviser to several grassroots health-care organizations who has written extensively on B.C.’s health ­crisis at

Health Minister Adrian Dix is infamous for using cherry-picked data, isolated and frequently misleading figures that put a positive spin on the dismal performance of our health-care system while obscuring the truth.

It’s easy to get away with when that’s all the public hears.

The NDP took control away from health experts and front-line workers, silenced them, and threw money at lavish mega-projects delivering dismal results.

This is supported by an ever-growing bureaucracy, within the Ministry of Health and our multiple and redundant health authorities, with all the VPs, directors, committees, spin doctors, and expense accounts to match. All are appointed by and obey the whims of the government, answerable only to them.

Since Dix became Minister of Health, total health spending has grown by $8 billion annually.

Head-office admin in MOH/health authorities (bureaucrats) went from $1.695 billion to $2.693 billion — more than $1 billion more each and every year. Up 59 per cent. Well-outpacing, for example, MSP payments that support doctors (up 37 per cent).

Based on what we see daily, the extra bureaucracy has not helped the health system. And those numbers represent only part of the story. Actual program spending (for example, within hospitals) also has a hefty administrative component not included there.

What else could that $1 billion per year increase be used for? Here’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation:

Assume two million people in B.C. are without adequate primary care.

We could eliminate that entirely with 2,000 new family doctors, each with a panel of 1,000 patients.

At $400,000 per doctor per year (including expenses), that would cost $800 million.

That would still leave $200 million per year left over.

And no, we couldn’t bring 2,000 docs on board tomorrow. But with the right incentive structure, infrastructure, work environment, autonomy, respect, and support, we could get enough doing longitudinal primary care and extend their reach to fill that two-million-person care gap.

What’s really astounding is that if you’re looking for a comprehensive breakdown of that $2.7 billion spent on head-office administration, you’re not going to find it.

MSP payments, used to pay doctors and others to provide health services, are just over two times ($5.7 billion) what we spend on head-office admin.

But those payments to doctors (and other organizations) are detailed in a 66-page tiny-print report (the Blue Book).

You have to wonder why it’s OK for the government to explain away $2.7 billion in admin spending in a handful of lines across multiple financial reports.

But they need to detail billings (before expenses!) for every single doctor.

$2.7 billion in head-office admin? A few lines are good. But $3.6 billion in individual physician billings must be detailed to the penny! It’s almost like they want to leave the impression that physicians are fat cats bleeding our system dry.

There will always be some money wasted. But when the life and health of five million people are being compromised, and billions of dollars in spending may be available to fix it, there’s no excuse.

This government has failed on so many fronts in health care.

But they’re accountable to nobody for their failures.

The government is the only one who benefits from hiding its failures and gross mismanagement.

This is not their province. It’s ours. This must stop now.

They blinked when it came to a one-time $800 million expense for a museum. How about for $1 billion per year?

Two byelections were just called. They should be seen as a referendum on the government’s mishandling of health.

Time to send a strong message that they’ll pay for their failures in votes.

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