Elk Valley patients are being turned away from Alberta health services and community leaders are determined to find out why.
A local mayor and MLA have banded together to try to resolve the issue they believe could be linked to financial compensation between the B.C. and Alberta governments.
Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said his office has been inundated with constituent concerns about access to healthcare services in Alberta.
According to Shypitka, the province of Alberta has been moving non-emergency and elective surgeries for B.C. patients to Kelowna and elsewhere for roughly the past year, however, those referrals have increased over the past six months.
“Now, we’re getting this kind of complaint all the time,” he said.
The MLA said he has been working with B.C. health minister Adrian Dix behind the scenes to find solutions on a case-by-case basis.
He has also been trying to get to the root of the problem.
“In my opinion, I think it’s a billing issue, where health authorities in Alberta aren’t getting direct payment from the Province of British Columbia, from B.C. residents,” said Shypitka.
“So instead of it going directly to the health authority, these payments go to Alberta as a whole and then those payments get trickled down or allocated back to the health authority not necessarily always 100 per cent.”
Shypitka has urged any local patients running into roadblocks for healthcare in Alberta to contact his constituency office with their testimonials.
Sparwood’s new mayor David Wilks and Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok have also been vocal on the issue.
Wilks believes a large number of Sparwood residents are being affected.
“I certainly will be speaking with other mayors throughout the region at the Regional District meetings coming up to gain support to assist both MLAs (Shypitka and Clovechok) in providing additional information to the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, so that we can hopefully rectify this situation,” he said.
Wilks said patients previously referred to Alberta health services are now being sent to Kelowna or Vancouver, between eight and 11 hours’ drive away.
“It is nothing against the medical care that they receive in Kelowna or Vancouver… It’s the amount of time that it takes loved ones to get there and also when patients are discharged from there they are required to find their own way back,” he said.
“Now that’s all fine and dandy if you are a young person who might have the ability to do that, but if you’re an elderly person and you have no one, it becomes extremely problematic.
“So we have to fix that and if we can’t fix that then we have to look at ways that we can get these people to a closer area from their home.”
Shypitka has obtained a memo from Interior Health, which shows Calgary has experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of cardiac surgery referrals.
The health authority was informed that as a result, Calgary will not be offering non-life-threatening open heart procedures to patients from southeastern B.C.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) says care was provided to 9440 out-of-province patients last year.
According to a statement from an Alberta government spokesperson, a policy guideline is in the works to support AHS doctors and clinicians in accepting out-of-province patients seeking elective procedures at Alberta hospitals.
Those guidelines are in the early stages of development and will be piloted in specific regions, and clinical areas.
The B.C. Ministry of Health is yet to respond to Black Press’ request for comment.
Are you an Elk Valley resident who has had difficulty accessing Alberta healthcare? Contact Kimberley Vlasic via 250-423-4666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.