Rural health care concerns are by far the most prominent topic for residents in the southeast corner of B.C., according to two MLAs who spoke with Regional District of East Kootenay board directors on Friday, Sept. 8.
Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok and Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka both shared the gamut of issues that constituents have been bringing to their respective offices, while also lending their support in advocating RDEK matters to the province during a joint board presentation.
On the health care front, the concerns are many.
Most acute is access to health care in Alberta, as East Kootenay residents are geographically closer to Calgary and Lethbridge as opposed to Kelowna, where there is specialized care, such as radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
“It’s unfair for people in rural B.C. to be travelling 1,000 kilometres over six mountain passes in the dead of winter to get access to health care,” said Tom Shypitka, referencing the challenges of travelling west to Kelowna as opposed to heading east into Alberta.
While some emergency trauma medical services are still provided to BC residents in Alberta, some health care options such as radiation therapy remain closed to BC-based patients in border communities.
Clovechok also noted limited government financial support or reimbursement for Kootenay-based patients who face steep travel and accommodation costs for specialist consultations or procedures in the Okanagan.
Though serving in the opposition ranks as a BC United MLA, Clovechok said he is working on setting up a meeting with Adriana LaGrange, the newly sworn-in Alberta Minister of Health, to discuss the issues around accessing cross-border health care, whether it be cancer treatment or other specialized medical care.
The two MLAs also got an earful about a pending major project at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital Cranbrook.