Wednesday, October 26, 2022

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice shares strong support for Government's Health Professions Act in Legislature Debate

Debate towards the BC Government's Bill 36, the Health Professions Act brought all three Northwest MLA's to the Legislature on Tuesday, with the trio providing for their thoughts and opinions on the piece of legislation.

The first of the commentaries coming from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice who framed the bill in the scope of reconciliation themes.

This is a really important piece of legislation, particularly for my constituents in North Coast. I have a high Indigenous population in my riding. I understand that it's the highest of all the ridings or constituencies we have in B.C.  And Almost half my constituency are Indigenous peoples living on reserve. 

Historically, there's been a tenuous relationship with health care facilities and health care service for a lot of Indigenous people in my riding. In fact, the name of the hospital in Bella Bella is named after a white, male, historical racist person. 

Recently the Heiltsuk First Nation removed the name of the hospital, and they're going through a naming process to name the hospital to be much more culturally appropriate and safe. 

So that just reflects the changes in the day and age of communities and British Columbians in general, working towards a concrete action plan for reconciliation.

Ms. Rice also spoke to what she called Ground breaking legislation and how it will enhance paitenty
safety, provide for oversight of health regulatory colleges, as well as to how it will take on discrimination. 

I was really happy to see some of the details in this piece of legislation, but it's a little bit more comprehensive than that — than my local issue. Patient safety will be enhanced, oversight of health regulatory colleges strengthened and governance of the health professionals will be improved with this piece of ground-breaking legislation. Our government is making the most significant changes to oversight of regulated health professionals in British Columbia's history. 

These changes will streamline the process to regulate new health professions, provide stronger oversight, provide more consistent discipline across the professions, act in the public interest and protect patient care in this province while also laying the groundwork to further reduce the total number of regulatory colleges.

In summary, what is being done is that the new legislation addresses discrimination in health care and requires cultural safety and humility to be embedded in the ways professionals provide health care, improves governance to ensure that regulatory colleges are governing the professions in the public interest, creates a path to reduce the number of regulatory colleges for improved efficiency and effectiveness, establishes the creation of an oversight body to ensure that the regulatory framework is functioning in the public interest, creates a new discipline process that is safer and accessibility for patients who have experienced harm while getting health care, and improves information-sharing for better transparency and accountability.

The North Coast MLA also put some focus on the impact of the legislation towards discrimination  for the communities and those who access Northern Health services across the region.

Primarily, my riding is encompassed by the Northern Health Authority. We also have Vancouver Coastal for my Central Coast communities. But often we will receive health complaints related to racism to Indigenous peoples. 

I often refer people to the patient care quality assurance office. 

And What I've learned is that…. Well, all the Northern Health employees have access to cultural safety and humility training. They have opportunities for so much education, I could say, on the relevance of Indigenous peoples in this province and to the riding and to the health services and the important role that they've played and the trauma they've experience historically. 

However, it came to my attention that the physicians…. I'm certainly not targeting any particular physician, but we often have a lot of locums come to Prince Rupert that are really sort of ill-informed of the demographic that they're there to serve. 

So a lot of the complaints came from the locums or the visiting doctors not taking the sensitivity of their patients into consideration. However, through the patient care office, they are unable to address these concerns, because physicians are regulated by their own college. 

They're essentially independent contractors and not technically an employee of Northern Health, even though they are a partner of Northern Health. 

So I think by addressing some of these…. This whole piece of legislation addresses so many aspects in that patients will now know who to go to, because it's so confusing with all the regulatory bodies and associations, but also that action can be taken and corrective measures and education for our physicians can be obtained, which I think is a great step forward for reconciliation in this province and particularly serves the constituents in my riding.

The full text of her presentation can be reviewed from the minutes and video for the Tuesday morning session starting at the 11:20 AM minute mark

The topic was also up for discussion by the two other MLA's representing communities across the Northwest. 

Municipal Affairs Minister and Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen addressed the topic in the afternoon session, 
some of his focus was on how the legislation will address the level of care for Indigenous residents in the Northwest.

When we're talking about tens and tens of thousands of workers, of course there are going to be challenges within any field. Health care, being as complicated as it is sometimes, having an oversight body that will promote that accountability, transparency and consistency across all of the different colleges that we talk about is incredibly important. 

I don't know if other representatives in this place have had constituents in their office with significant complaints about their treatment or their care. We saw, in a recent report about systemic racism within the health care system, that these complaints, for too many years, fell on deaf ears and, for too many years, were ignored. away, while people were told they were being irrational. I represent — in Stikine, in northwestern British Columbia — many, many communities. 

And the report that we commissioned particularly needed to focus in on and emphasize the systemic racism, particularly towards Indigenous people, within the health care system itself. 

And I'm looking at my friend across the way from Skeena. We know of cases, he and I both, of interactions between Indigenous people in the north — not just in his riding but certainly in mine, in Prince George and other places — where the treatment,  of one patient to another, was too often determined by the indigeneity of that person. 

These are hard things to talk about as we hold up and lift up our health care workers. Knowing that there are problems within the system requires the courage of all of us, collectively — and particularly us as government and, in this case, the Health Minister — to deal with those. 

One of the ways that you deal with them is the very act that we're talking about here today. An oversight body with greater accountability, greater transparency and consistency across those regulatory regimes is certainly something that was called for in the commission's report. It has been called for by health care advocates, Indigenous advocates, the First Nations Leadership Council and many Indigenous leaders across B.C., and I'm glad to see it here.

Mr. Cullen's full overview of the proposed legislation ca be reviewed from the session minutes  and viewed from the video feed starting at the 4:20 PM mark

The Skeena MLA, Ellis Ross noted of the bi-partisanship of the legislation. but also called attention to a frequent theme for him in debate over how the province consults with First Nations leadership.

This bill was actually a collaboration by all three parties in this House. It was based on the recommendations of the steering committee that was that was co-chaired by the Leader of the Third Party, the Minister of Health and my colleague the MLA for Kelowna–Lake Country. 

In this case, I'm very grateful for the member for Kelowna–Lake Country, because he represents a lot of history here and knows a lot about the health care system in B.C., if not Canada. 

And I've tried to understand the health system as it exists today, but it's terribly complicated. It's complex. 

And representatives in Terrace and Kitimat, the people that I have asked to try to get an understanding of the structure of the health care system, including lines of jurisdictional authority, really can't answer me because my simple question, right out of the gates, is: who's in charge? 

Because I need to know who to direct my questions to in terms of ambulance services, or lack of ambulance services or why doctors are leaving Skeena. 

Why are nurses crying and quitting? I need to know. 

So who is it? Is it the College of Physicians? Is it the hospital directors? Is it the health authorities? Is it the minister? 

It is terribly complex.  And this is not the fault of anybody. This structure has been built over decades, and it does flow, in my mind, from a national health care program. 

I've heard in this House that somehow, public health care is sacred in Canada. You can't touch it. 

You can't even talk about private health care. Yet we find out that private nursing is allowed to exist beside public health care nurses in our hospitals. So that kind of clouds the issue of private health care. Not only that. These nurses, the private nurses, are making two to three times more than a public health care nurse. 

But as I say, that will not be covered in Bill 36. 

Bill 36, like all other bills that have been presented in this House, has been presented with a reference to UNDRIP, the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people.

But as we found out with every single piece of legislation that was tabled here in the House…. We now find out that the government not only did not live up to the commitment to consult with the rights and title holders in terms of every single bill that came up in this House, but they are not working to align every single law in B.C. with UNDRIP. 

So now we're hearing different stories now, that are actually contrary to the debate that we had here with UNDRIP in the first place. 

Now we're hearing from the legislation that they consulted non–title holders, non–rights and title holders. They consulted with the leadership council. They consulted with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. They consulted with the summit. 

These are advocacy groups. They do not represent rights and title.

Mr. Ross's contribution to the discussion can be reviewed form the Legislature minutes and video archive starting at the 5:35 PM mark of the Tuesday session.

More notes on the work of the MLA's at the Legislature can be reviewed here.

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