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B.C. premier says he may take out newspaper ad to get feds' attention on health care

After a desperate senior – one of the nearly one million people in B.C. without a family doctor – took out an ad in a newspaper seeking care, Premier John Horgan said he may have to do the same to get the attention of the feds.

Horgan maintained Wednesday that there is nothing uniquely dire about the state of health care in British Columbia and that only significant federal investment can solve what he described as a nationwide problem.

"I had the premiers from all across the country here just a few weeks ago. Our number one ask of the federal government was, if we have a national health-care program governed by the Canada Health Act, we need an equal partner to make sure we have sustainable funding," he said.

"We need a national plan. That's been pretty clear. It's not just me. It's Conservative premiers, Liberal premiers, it's not a question of perspective. It's a question of necessity."

The premiers have said Ottawa used to be a 50/50 funding partner and is now only providing roughly a fifth of health-care costs. They want the feds to put up at least 35 per cent of total funding – an increase that would cost another $28 billion a year.

Still, for many, the fact that a woman bought a newspaper ad because she felt she had no other way to get her 82-year-old husband's essential prescriptions refilled was a stark illustration of just how bad things have become in British Columbia.

The premier did concede that this one example is indicative of a much larger issue.

"The good news is that the family has found the prescription that they require. I would suggest that there are a whole bunch of other families that are scrambling to try and find access to primary care, using whatever means they have at their disposal," he said.

But Horgan said the problems plaguing communities in B.C., including staff shortages, emergency room closures and a lack of access to primary care, are present in Toronto, Prince Edward Island and rural Manitoba.

"This is not a B.C. problem. It's a national problem," he said.

"Families concerned about being able to access primary care is a real and pressing problem, and we're doing everything we can to address it. But it needs to be across the country, not just across the community."

As for what work is underway to solve the problem locally, Horgan did say the Doctors of BC are continuing negotiations with the Health Ministry on reforming the current fee-for-service payment model, universally described by doctors as outdated and failing to consider skyrocketing overhead costs and the time physicians spend with patients.

"The deputy minister of health has been engaged almost daily for the past number of weeks. I'm advised that the discussions are going well as we find a new formula to meet the changing circumstances that doctors, that GPs find themselves in," he said.

While not offering specifics, Horgan also said he was confident he'll see some movement from the federal government on the premiers' demands for more federal funding.

"I'm confident the Prime Minister gets it. Hopefully we'll have some progress before the summer's done," he said.

And if not?

"Maybe I'll take out an ad in the paper."

However, Janet Mort, the Vancouver Island woman who placed the ad, says she's not happy she and her husband had to resort to public actions to get basic health care. She told The Canadian Press that she was offended by Horgan's “tongue-in-cheek response.”

Mort, who's an Order of B.C. recipient for her work in public education, says she's written a letter to Horgan asking for a meeting to discuss repairing health care in B.C., with or without federal help.

With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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