Premier Christy Clark spoke about the Oceanside Health Centre, the Island rail controversy and tourism when she sat down with The NEWS on Thursday for an exclusive interview.
Clark and the entire B.C. Liberal caucus were in Parksville Qualicum Beach for meetings June 9-11. The premier met with The NEWS for a one-on-one interview after she spoke to a full house at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre on Thursday morning, an event organized by the chambers of commerce in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo.
What follows is a transcript of that interview, minus most of the small talk.
The NEWS (TN): Our newspaper reported this morning that the Oceanside Health Centre is losing its only family physician. She has 1,700 clients. What can de done?
Premier Christy Clark (PC): I think we will be successful in finding a replacement. Island Health in going to work hard to find a replacement. Frankly, I don’t think it’s going to be as hard here as in other communities to find a replacement. It’s not like living in Parksville is like hardship pay, right? I mean people really love to be here and it’s a rewarding practice to have, so I’m hopeful Island Health will be able to find a replacement. But it (finding physicians) is a problem all over the world.
TN: The whole model of the OHC was pitched as very different. Does the model crumble because of staff issues? Does it matter what kind of model you have if you can’t find a doctor or a nurse?
PC: I think the idea of collaborative care is a part of the response to that problem. If you have a nurse practitioner and nurses in advance practice and that range of caregivers, losing one piece of the puzzle temporarily is less of a problem than if an individual is relying on just one doctor or just one caregiver. What’s happening here is something we are trying to replicate across the province because it’s been so successful. Having said that, you don’t want to lose a doctor. We need to replace that position, absolutely, but hopefully the collaborative model will mean that patients in the short term until the new doctor comes will see a little less impact than in other communities where people might not have collaborative care.
TN: Can you explain who the heath authority is accountable to?
PC: What do you mean?
TN: I mean, no one elects these people.
PC: They are accountable to the Ministry of Health. Ultimately they are accountable to the government. We appoint their board and the board hires a CEO. It’s been a good model overall. There’s lumps and sometimes bumps on the road sometimes, but they have done a real good job managing it. Remember, in the year 2000, there was something like 36 community health boards — it was just a jumble of management. This is, I think, the best model in the country, You’ve got six health authorities meeting regional needs, but they are also large enough to meet the economies of scale to make it work.
TN: The E&N Railway. I’m going to guess it was part of caucus discussions these past couple of days. What’s your view on what’s happening?
PC: We are examining it. The Ministry of Transportation has said it’s not going to be able to meet safety standards. Obviously we’re concerned about that. We want to work with the (Island Corridor Foundation) and get some more information. I can tell you though, I got an earful about it from 250 people that were at the event last night (at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort in Qualicum Beach), a lot of people very concerned about whether or not this should go ahead. Some think it should, some think it should be bike trails.
TN: Do you have personal view on it?
PC: I don’t have enough information yet. I’m going to talk to (Nanaimo) Mayor Bill (McKay) about it and I’m going to be speaking to the mayor of Parksville later today about it and a couple of other issues. I want to move forward on this in a way that respects the community interests. I think, with (Parksville-Qualicum MLA) Michelle (Stilwell), we need to do a little more work in really understanding what people would like to see happen here, and what’s realistic. In Kelowna, we have just dedicated a railway corridor, a new bike and walk trail. That corridor is going to be a fantastic amenity for that community and it’s just going to drive tourism in a community that’s very tourism oriented, not that different from this community or this region of the province in that way.
TN: Could we do that here with this rail corridor?
PC: There are lots of possibilities, I don’t know. That’s what people were talking about last night. I had a table full of people, passionate about it. But you know, the other thing about this community is people are really positive, people are do-ers. It’s kind of like Kelowna.
TN: Lastly, it wouldn’t be a trip to Parksville for you Premier Clark if I didn’t ask you once again why this community cannot access funding through your government’s Resort Community Initiative. You always tell me the criteria doesn’t fit. Well then, the criteria is wrong, isn’t it?
PC: I am going to talking about that with the mayor of Parksville later this afternoon. I don’t have a quick answer for you on that.
TN: You stayed in resort while you were here this week (Tigh-Na-Mara), surrounded by a bunch of other resorts, but we’re not a resort municipality?
PC: It’s something we’re going to look at because I want to do everything we can to jump-start tourism in British Columbia. We have to do more for regional tourism and that means introducing people to Vancouver Island, introducing them to the wine country up in Kelowna. We have more to do on that.