The shortage of doctors and health-care workers in British Columbia is “significant” and has worsened amid an influx of newcomers to the province, Premier John Horgan said Wednesday.
“We have made tremendous progress in a bunch of areas but 100,000 people came to British Columbia last year and they did not bring a family doctor with them,” Horgan told CFAX 1070.
“We have a problem here,” the premier added. “I know there’s a problem here. I’m not running from it, I’m not sugar-coating it.”
More people moved to British Columbia in 2021 than at any other point over the last 60 years, according to data released earlier this month by Statistics Canada and the BC government.
But net migration to the province has strained the health-care system “for decades,” Horgan said, adding the issue is compounded by the current labor shortage affecting all sectors of the economy.
“More and more people are coming here,” Horgan said. “It’s a desirable place to live — people who live here know that. So we shouldn’t be surprised when more people show up and we haven’t kept pace with that in a number of areas.”
The premier said his government is making stride in addressing the health-care crisis, citing the opening of new urgent primary care centers and the province’s move last week to expedite foreign health-care workers into the provincial system.
However, “it’s not been good enough,” Horgan said, adding he is focused on getting the federal government to commit more money to the provinces to provide health care.
“Our system is chronically underfunded and it is to the tune of billions and billions of dollars,” the premier said. “If we, as provinces, had those dollars, we would be able to provide more services, we would be able to change our fee-for-service model, do a whole bunch of things. Without that money we are just patching the holes .”
A study last week indicated Victoria has the longest wait times for walk-in medical clinics in the country as many residents who lack a family doctor rely on clinics for basic health care.
The average Canadian’s wait time for a walk-in clinic in 2021 was 25 minutes, while in Victoria, the average wait time was 161 minutes, according to online clinic tracker Medimap.
British Columbians wait an average of 58 minutes before seeing a doctor, the longest provincial wait time in the country, while Ontario residents fared best with average waits of 15 minutes.