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Bill gives government sweeping power over your health care

Do you trust the government with your private health-care information? Do you trust the government to mandate your health care?

A commentary from a medical doctor with a practice in Saanich.

So, Health Minister Adrian Dix, I have been waiting now for almost a year for that cup of coffee. (See “How to encourage more family doctors,” Feb. 7, 2022.)

We have never once met to discuss the health-care crisis in this province, or solutions to the family doctor shortage, despite overwhelming public pressure as evidenced by the Herculean advocacy efforts of BC Healthcare Matters.

You gave me a glimmer of hope when you spoke to the critical importance of family doctors when announcing the new pay model back on Oct. 31, 2022, a complete about-face from your comments in May about how we were easily replaceable by health professionals with less training.

Maybe all the public advocacy work had truly brought about a change of heart, I thought. Maybe all the impressed plea of ​​citizens with no family doctor and no access to health care had really opened your eyes and you were finally prepared to discuss real solutions.

Because make no mistake, the new pay model is an encouraging first step, but there is much more work to be done if we are to ensure the million British Columbians without a family doctor finally get access to one.

But then, on Nov. 24, you quietly stabbed health care in the back in the form of Bill 36, which was rushed through the approval process with little notice and no opportunity for public discussion or debate, as it received royal assent on the same day.

I am told the NDP government invoked closure at clause 233, leaving more than 400 clauses unread and without proper scrutiny. This is an egregious lack of transparency, no matter which way you look at it.

You might think it is a done deal now, but you would underestimate the power of the health-care professionals and the public when they stand united in defense of health care in this province. The damage from Bill 36 can yet be undone, but it will take action by the legislature to reverse it.

I am writing this commentary now on behalf of all the unsuspecting British Columbians who, even now, do not realize the import of Bill 36.

British Columbians everywhere, please take note of the following questions, and ask yourself:

• Do you trust this government to appoint a College of Physicians and Surgeons board that will make decisions in the best interest of your health? Keep in mind the recent debacles with flu shot supply, withholding information about COVID deaths in children, hoarding of Paxlovid on warehouse shelves rather than distributing to patients in need, and more.

• Would you feel safe talking to your doctor knowing that the government could size and copy your clinical records at any time? The government does not have access to your private medical records. Apparently, your legal right to confidentiality, a sacred principle upheld by physicians for generations, is relative in the province of BC

• Do you trust the government appointees being able to impose arbitrary conditions of license, restrictions on the ability to practice, determine who has good character and who does not, and mandate medical interventions?

• The health minister will have overreaching power in the form of a disciplinary tribunal, but what will warrant disciplinary action? Could being critical of the government or the College bring reprisals on well-intentioned health-care professionals?

• Do you believe in the idea that College (ie, the government) powers can be kept secret and free of debate? Do you trust this approach, or do you think British Columbians deserve transparency?

• Health professionals might be fined up to $200,000 or jailed for up to six months — for what, you say? Criminal activity? fraud? No, all it takes is the government deciding the information provided to the government by a health-care professional while performing their health-care duties is misleading.

• Do you want your government, or your doctor (or other health-care professional), making decisions about your health care? After all, the government will have the power through the courts to compel a doctor or other health professional to comply with the government’s direction. Should this not be an informed discussion between a patient and their health-care professional? Forgive me for not seeing where the government enters into the therapeutic relationship.

Why should you, as British Columbians, be worried about Bill 36? It compromises your right to confidentiality, and it creates a climate of suspicion and mistrust between the government and your health-care professionals.

Even now, doctors are considering licensure in other provinces as a “backup plan,” in case the current government’s need to control and micromanage health care means they can no longer practice in BC

This is not an environment that will attract doctors or other health-care professionals to BC and, just as a reminder, recruitment and retention are absolutely critical to finding our way out of this health-care crisis.

I am all for an overhaul of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, but Bill 36 makes me cringe, because of the unilateral powers it gives to the government, and the risks it is taking with the health care of British Columbians.

Do you trust the government with your private health-care information? Do you trust the government to mandate your health care? Would it not make far more sense for the College boards to include members of the public to represent the interests of patients?

I urge all British Columbians to consider these questions, and then to write to their local MLAs, asking that Bill 36 be repeated, and given the opportunity for proper debate and public discussion.

Don’t underestimate your power as voters. We are all in this together, and we can take a stand for universal health care in BC

The ball is in Dix’s court. Will he listen to the united voices of citizens and health-care professionals, standing united against Bill 36?