Q&A: B.C. Minister of Health on family doctors, senior homes and pharmacare

Provincial Minister of Health Adrian Dix sat down with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, to discuss what British Columbians can expect.

Adrian Dix supports plans to improve prescription drug coverage across Canada

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix told CBC Radio's The Early Edition that British Columbians will likely be working with teams of medical staff in the future rather than a single family doctor. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Provincial and federal budgets released in the last 10 days contain several health-related changes, from the elimination of medical services plan premiums to discussion of a national plan for prescription drug coverage. 

The provincial Minister of Health Adrian Dix sat down with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, to discuss what British Columbians can expect.

How will you ensure that British Columbians have access to a family doctor?

One of the things we committed to was establishing a network of urgent-care centres and you're going to see those roll out across British Columbia over the next year.

Secondly, we are going to work with the division of family doctors and support them by using other health professionals [like nurse practitioners].

We've got to do better and working together in teams — I think that's the change you are going to see.

Is the expectation of having a family doctor unrealistic now?

We are seeing a lot more walk-in clinics and lot more doctors working in large teams right now.

I think it's not unrealistic, though, for people to expect to be attached to primary care healthcare and that's what we are trying to do.

The Chinese government has taken control of Anbang insurance group which owns 21 seniors homes in British Columbia. The provincial government paid the corporation $87 million for its services in 2015-16. Why did the federal government allow this to happen?

The federal government approved the sale but those circumstances have changed, obviously.

What we can do in British Columbia is ensure that at Retirement Concepts [the Vancouver-based senior care provider sold to Chinese insurance giant Anbang], the standards are high.

Ultimately, we have regulatory authority over care homes … and we will be using our regulatory power to the fullest extent.  

The federal budget says there will be a national advisory council on a pharmacare strategy, but Finance Minister Bill Morneau has already said it will not be universal pharmacare. The Canadian Health Coalition called the federal government's move a 'cruel sleight of hand'. What do you think?

I think action is required.

We had a budget, too, and one of the most significant things we did in that budget is improve pharmacare coverage for British Columbians.

B.C. is a strong supporter of [pharmacare]. We'll be there at the table with our resources to talk to the federal government.  

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has an average wait time of 43 weeks for a hip replacement. For Fraser Health, it's 45 weeks. Is that an appropriate time for people to be waiting for a surgery?

No.

On hip and knee, we will be taking specific action in two ways: one, improving the efficiency of how we do things … and we are also going to be putting resources into surgery to reduce wait times.

This interview aired on The Early Edition on March 2 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.

The provincial Minister of Health Adrian Dix sat down with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, to discuss what British Columbians can expect 14:22