Hospital wait times a concern for 3-in-4 B.C. residents: Pre-election poll
Three-quarters of British Columbians consider hospital wait times one of the key issues facing the province, according to a poll conducted in the lead-up to next week's election.
Long waits for procedures and tests was the number one concern identified in the Insights West poll, followed by B.C.'s widely reported shortage of doctors and nurses.
More than half of respondents also listed emergency department wait times as a major problem, while fewer than one-third pointed at poor management or inadequate resources.
Insufficient hygiene standards was the area of least concern.
Asked about their personal experiences with wait times, about four-in-10 respondents reported having had to wait more than six months for a procedure or test in the past. Nearly two-thirds said they had waited more than an hour for help during an emergency room visit.
Whichever issue matters most to voters, healthcare will certainly be on the minds of many when they cast their ballots on May 9 – and the three major parties have promised different approaches to health care policy.
NDP Leader John Horgan’s pledges include building Urgent Family Care Centres across the province that will be open on evenings and weekends, increasing home care services for seniors to allow them to stay at home longer, and creating a Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction to help combat the opioid crisis.
"I assure you it will be our focus – to build it up, not tear it down," Horgan told supporters over the weekend.
The party has also promised to eliminate Medical Services Plan premiums within four years. It's unclear how it will be paid for, though the NDP said it will convene an independent panel to determine the best course of action.
Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have promised more university spaces to train doctors and nurses, an extra $225-million over three years to clear backlogs for elective surgeries, and $2.6-billion in new infrastructure spending over the same period.
"[The Liberals] have the means to make sure that we're investing in a new tower at Richmond hospital," Clark said told a cheering crowd on Friday.
Among other commitments, her party has also pledged $165-million for youth mental health needs and substance abuse issues, to halve MSP premiums and to eventually scrap them altogether – although there has been no timeline for the latter promise, and finance minister Mike de Jong said it's unlikely to happen before the 2021 election.
Some of the promises of the B.C. Green Party and its leader, Andrew Weaver, echoed the NDP's, including additional support for seniors to stay at home and the creation of a new ministry for mental health and addictions.
Weaver has also promised an additional arm of the government, The Ministry for Healthy Living, Wellness and Preventative Medicine, as well as $100-million over four years to hire more social workers.
"Our platform is based on good policy. We're not trying to buy votes, we're putting out what we stand for," Weaver said last week.
The online Insights West Poll was conducted on behalf of CTV News from April 10 to 13 among 809 B.C. adults. Surveys of that size have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos