I know better than to make political predictions...but do it anyway.
So, pushing ahead in defiance of my own better judgment, I’d say the issue that will come back and bite the NDP in the backside could be health care.
It’s ironic, and perhaps a bit unfair, given that B.C. was generally thought to have done better than most provinces on that file when facing the worst global health crisis of our lives — COVID-19.
Despite dealing with something enormous and unprecedented, it seemed to me and many others if polls are to be believed that the NDP had a clear and steady approach to the pandemic.
Keeping Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, front and centre answering questions at daily press briefings, I believe did a lot to instill public confidence.
So, it’s bizarre to me that this same government is so lacking in an effective communication strategy when it comes to almost every other health care issue. Case in point, the Richmond Hospital rebuild.
It was in a public debate hosted by the Richmond News leading up to the October 2020 provincial election, that then-NDP candidate Kelly Greene was waving around a stack of papers, claiming they were the business case for the hospital renovations Richmond had been promised in the previous election.
“Shovels will be in the ground in 2021,” was her confident prediction. Well, it’s 2022 and still no shovels. And, fair enough. Although the pandemic was already upon us when she said that, I don’t think most of us predicted all the variants to come. Nor was it well understood the very important difference between a vaccine and vaccination. In hindsight, the remarkable achievement of creating the former seems like child’s play compared to the challenge of actually doing the latter.
So, I get it. We should cut the government some slack if a massive project like a hospital rebuild gets delayed. What I don’t get is why it took repeated emails starting on May 27 to Vancouver Coastal Health to get anyone to actually talk to us about it. To be fair, MLA Greene gave us an interview within days and I appreciate that. But it boggles my mind that the whole process should be so difficult.
And the hospital story (which was inspired by a letter to the editor, by the way) was nothing compared to what we went through trying to get a comment about the province’s plan to shift away from the pay-for-service model for family doctors to primary care clinics.
We did that story because a Richmond family doctor reached out to us to explain how she’s overwhelmed and the government is doing too little to support her practice and, by extension, the very foundation of primary care.
I’ll note that she was not alone, not just in being an overwhelmed family doctor, but in being an overwhelmed family doctor reaching out to the media. While we spoke to her, I noticed other media were also talking to doctors in their respective communities. This was part of an orchestrated campaign. Again, fair enough.
Meanwhile, we couldn’t get interviews with VCH, the health minister Adrian Dix or a local MLA to explain their side — because we knew there is another side.
The province has recognized challenges with the fee-for-service model and has established a number of Urgent and Primary Care Clinics (UPCC) which are team-based and have different funding systems. It may well be a better system and we did our best to explain it, but no thanks to the politicians promoting it or the staff implementing it.
In today’s paper, we have a letter (page 4) about the Lions Manor. Again, we’ll pester those in charge to tell us something, anything, about where things are at — wish us luck. Yes, I’m whining about how hard our job is, but these story ideas aren’t ours, they’re coming from the community.
This isn’t to say the NDP is doing a bad job on healthcare, but their reticence doesn’t do them any service.
I’m no media strategist, and should probably stay in my lane, but I don’t get why a government that could manage the biggest health crisis since the Spanish flu can’t seem to pick up a phone.