B.C. Budget 2024: focused on new health-care infrastructure, not workers


Nurses want more investment in workers as B.C. commits $13B to facilities, $2B to service expansion

Budget 2024 looks to expand on B.C. health-care services by $2 billion, while also planning for $13 billion in new infrastructure over the next three years.

But there is nothing specific to address ongoing emergency room closures throughout the province, or supports for paramedics.

Hospital emergency rooms, mainly at facilities in the Interior, have faced ongoing closures throughout the past year. Among the most-impacted hospitals is South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver, which has faced five closures already in 2024.

READ MORE: Doctor shortage closes Oliver hospital’s emergency room

In Williams Lake, a sign was posted in Cariboo Memorial Hospital’s emergency room in October that said the department was closed “unless patient is imminently dying.” The sign became the subject of an investigation, but also sparked a debate in the legislature about the state of health care in the province.

READ MORE: ‘Disturbing’ sign at Williams Lake ER sparks debate in legislature, investigation

BC Nurses’ Union president Adriane Gear said Thursday the province’s investment in health care overall is good.

“But what’s missing is some direct investments in nurses.”

Gear said it was particularly surprising after the nurses’ union worked closely with the government to implement minimum nurse-to-patient ratios

“It’s important that we retain every nurse that we have in B.C. We also need to recruit many more.”

Gear added it would have been nice to see some investment in improving working conditions.

“Even from a health and safety perspective, nursing is a dangerous job sometimes. Nurses, more than many other sectors, sustain occupational illness and injury, and it would have been nice to see something to prevent that.”

The $2 billion in funding includes additional supports for primary and acute care services, long-term care and assisted living services, home care, mental health and substance-use care settings, according to the budget released Thursday (Feb. 22).

It includes:

• $277 million for home health-care services to help with daily activities, such as bathing, grooming, lifts and transfers and nutrition

• $127 million for community-based services such as Better at Home, which supports seniors with day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping, light housekeeping, minor home repairs and snow shovelling

The $13 billion includes funding for the construction of new hospitals throughout the province, as well as new long-term care facilities, including projects already approved in Abbotsford, Richmond and Nanaimo

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