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De Jong talks health in Richmond

Questions about the need for a seniors advocate, negotiations with B.C.

Questions about the need for a seniors advocate, negotiations with B.C. anesthesiologists and support for children in poverty were just some of the issues raised at a town hall meeting with Minister of Health Michael de Jong, held at the Richmond Hospitals Ralph Fisher Auditorium Friday.

De Jong, made his presentation in front of a large projection of a pie chart which illustrated how the provincial budget is divided.

It showed that more is spent on health than any other sector 45 per cent. Moveover, that number is rising and will continue to do so as the population ages.

It was against that backdrop that de Jong answered questions about cutting MSP premiums (which he said make up 12 per cent of that 45 per cent which is spent on healthcare) or extending medical coverage to include message therapy, chiropractors and other alternative therapies.

At the same time, he stressed the need for prevention.

Right now 14 per cent of B.C. residents are smokers,

If we got that down to 10 percent, we would reduce our healthcare costs by $500 million.

It was also pointed out that many children live in poverty and a school breakfast programs would go a long way to preventing health problems down the road.

However, when it came to funding, De Jong asked the audience if anyone thought they didnt pay enough tax?

De Jong was asked repeatedly about the labour dispute with, and shortage of, anesthesiologists. To that, De Jong argued that not enough money was put into training medical specialists in the 1990s, hence the shortage. One anesthesiologist agreed, but noted the current shortage has as much to do with an inability to retain anesthesiologists.

In 2010, B.C. graduated nine anesthesiologists; six have already left the province.

Numerous surgeries had to be cancelled at Richmond Hospital recently, due the shortage.

B.C. anesthesiologists want to negotiate directly with the government, however the government will only negotiate with the B.C. Medical Association, which is supposed to represent all medical specialists.

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