Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick has been handed the job of trying to figure out what is ailing the health care system in B.C.
Premier Christy Clark has tapped the local Liberal backbencher to chair the B.C. standing committee on health, an all-party committee of legislature that last met five years ago to report on child obesity.
This time it has been charged with identifying the challenge of providing a health care system for an aging population over the next 25 years.
“There is nothing as important to people in my riding, or the people of British Columbia, as the health care system,” Letnick told the Capital News Thursday.
He said when he met with Clark after she was sworn in as premier, he told her his interest lay in health care reform.
“So she asked me to chair this committee,” he said with a chuckle. “I suppose you should be careful what you ask for.”
His chairmanship of the committee will have to be approved by the committee at its first meeting later this month.
The standing committee’s mandate has three parts.
The first is to identify the challenge so, in Letnick’s words, everyone is talking about the same thing.
The second part is to develop strategies to respond to that challenge.
The third aspect is to go out to the public and not only articulate what the committee found and how it proposes the issue should be addressed, but also gather input and find out what the public will support. As for a timeframe for the committee’s work, Letnick said that will be developed by the committee when it starts meeting later this month.
But he said his priority is to take as long as needed.
“If that means a few months more, then so be it,” said Letnick.
The 10-member committee’s vice-chairman is expected to be NDP health critic Mike Farnworth and it will include former Liberal finance and health minister Colin Hansen and two Liberal MLAs who are medical doctors, Moira Stillwell and Margaret MacDiarmid.
Included in the mandate for the committee will be what Letnick called a high-level look at the challenge of providing health care to B.C. over the next 25 years including the supply of doctors and nurses, the infrastructure that exists and that will be needed and the current and future demands on the system by those who will need to use it.
Factored into that is an aging population that is now seeing the first wave of baby boomers, people born after the Second World War and up to the early 1960s. The first wave are now turning 65.
Health care is one of the biggest items in the provincial budget and next year will account for 42 per cent of B.C.’s $42 billion budget.
And that does not take into account spending by other related programs that are not part of the health ministry, said the local MLA.
“This is a huge thing for this province,” he said.