Health care is collapsing: British Columbia specialists write letter to Adrian Dix

Caregivers and medical specialists say their patients are dying on waiting lists due to delays exacerbated by the pandemic

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A group of more than two dozen medical specialists ripped into Health Minister Adrian Dix in an open letter, complaining that their patients are suffering and dying on worsening waiting lists.

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The 26 medical specialists – led by Cassandra Lane Dielwart, an orthopedic surgeon in Kelowna and head of the specialty’s association in British Columbia – say the province’s ‘crumbled’ healthcare system is failing patients, including one million are on waiting lists that are only getting worse.

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In a call from Kelowna General Hospital on Wednesday, Dielwart said the public appeal arose from failed attempts to speak to Dix and the Department of Health about the issue in March.

“Unfortunately, we got nowhere and it felt like banging my head against a wall,” said Dielwart, who said he has since spoken to specialists in many fields beyond the orthopedics and realized that “every specialty goes through its own crisis.”

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The open letter seemed necessary because “these stories are common and complex and we really need to get this information out there.”

Dielwart realizes that the crisis is multiple and long before the COVID-19 pandemic – and that money is not the only solution.

“What I see is that all aspects of health care are intertwined,” Dielwart said. “I rely on all these people (radiologists, nurses, family doctors) to even get the person to see me.

“Money is always a factor in public health care, but we have to spend it properly. We need to figure out what’s broken and fix it rather than wasting money. »

Orthopedic surgeon Cassandra Lane Dielwart, left, treats a patient at Kelowna General Hospital in a file photo.
Orthopedic surgeon Cassandra Lane Dielwart, left, treats a patient at Kelowna General Hospital in a file photo. Photo by submitted

In the letter distributed Wednesday, the group calls on Dix to hold an urgent meeting and work cooperatively with the specialists to find solutions.

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“Our entire healthcare system is collapsing, but not enough is being done to improve outcomes for specialist patients or shorten our overcrowded waiting lists,” writes the group, which includes cardiologists, pediatricians, transplant surgeons and many other specialties.

“If we don’t work together to find solutions, specialty care in this province will further erode.

The letter notes that the persistent challenges of recent years, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that “patients are getting sicker and dying on our waiting lists.”

Despite the efforts of primary care providers, the letter says “urgent primary care centers and emergency departments are overwhelmed and cannot provide immediate access to specialists” – and the problem is not limited to delays in surgeries.

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“Long surgical wait times are the most well-known, but the wait times crisis extends across the spectrum of specialty care,” it reads, offering a few examples among “hundreds, if not thousands.” similar stories:

• A patient with sudden hearing loss who suffers from permanent hearing loss because he has been forced to wait.

• Over 16,000 people waiting for echocardiograms at Vancouver Coastal Health alone.

• Patients in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island wait two to three months for an oncologist to see them after a cancer diagnosis.

• A Northern Health respirologist, the only one in her area, has been forced to close her practice to new patients for the past two years as she catches up.

• And patients “wait for weeks with bated breath for their lab results and surgical pathology because of the long backlogs in our labs.”

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Specialists say they write on behalf of patients, many of whom “are often too ill to defend themselves. We need to stabilize and strengthen our specialized care infrastructure to support this vulnerable population.

Doctors say they are ‘exhausted and demoralized’ as they watch specialist care continue to decline.

“It is heartbreaking not to be able to provide the specialized care that BC patients need and deserve. We urgently request a meeting with you, and it is not a word we use lightly.

“We just want a seat at the table,” Dielwart pointed out. “We are fighting top to bottom in health care.”

Postmedia has contacted Health Minister Adrian Dix for an answer.

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