Kelowna-Lake Country MLA to continue looking for health care solutions

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick may not sit on the province's Select Standing Committee On Health anymore but that's not stoping him from gathering information for the committee's next report.

Letnick, who had to drop his chairmanship of the committee when he was named agriculture minister earlier this year, said Thursday as an MLA, healthcare continues to be important to him. For that reason, he plans to keep researching and talking to constituents to gather information and ideas so when the committee is ready to accept the next round of input from the public, he will have ideas to share.

"My job is the same as every other British Columbian's," he said. "When the committee is ready for our input, we need to provide it."

The Standing Select Committee on Health was brought back to life by Premier Christie Clark in 2011, when Letnick was named as its chairman, to look at how B.C.'s health care system will handle the expected demands from an aging population over the next 25 years, particularly Baby Boomers who now starting to retire.

The first phase of the committees work was to look at the demographic shift that will occur over the next 25 years. A report on that phase was issued late last month by the committee—which includes MLA members from both the Liberals and the NDP.

The next phase of the committee's mandate is to look at ways to mitigate the impact of the coming wave of "boomers" on the system.

For the local MLA, a focus on health care and how it will be paid for is personal. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in health economics from UBC.

Letnick said because the issue is so important to the province's future—both from a societal and financial perspective—it's important all British Columbians have a say on the issue.

He points to government spending on health care facilities here and in Vernon in the last five years, saying close to $1 billion has been provided for Kelowna General Hospital and Vernon's Jubilee Hospital.

In Kelowna, a new six-story tower, complete with upgrades to several departments has been built, as well as a new clinical support building, a medical school campus building and other hospital infrastructure.

KGH is currently getting ready for the start of construction of the new $364 million Interior Heart  and Surgical Centre, that will make Kelowna the fifth full cardiac care centre in the province and the first in the B.C. Interior.

Letnick said he feels the work of the standing committee will likely not be wrapped up before the next provincial election and it will likely need to be reconstituted by whichever party wins the next B.C. election in May 2013.

In the meantime, while agricultural issues obviously take up much of his time, Letnick said he plans to continue talking to constituents about health care, write his monthly columns on health care and host public meetings on health issues. The next meeting is expected to be on heart disease and will be held in January, he said.



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